As a child, I used to devour books left and right, up to the point that I even read the interesting parts of encyclopedias. However, as I got older, life and work caught up with me, leaving me with very little time to read. So, this year, I decided to hunker down and do the 2017 Read to Watch Challenge, in which I read a book/graphic novel/manga/short story, and watch its counterpart. For this challenge to work, I made sure that at least one of the items in the tandem is something that I’m watching or reading for the first time this year. Thankfully, I managed to get one down, and I’ll just keep on going from there.
(If you want a more detailed list, check out the “Lists & Challenges” page, which contain master lists of challenges, events and watch lists.)
The first book that I read for this challenge was “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs, a book that I had been meaning to finish since last year. I was immediately intrigued by the cover and the pictures inside, and I could tell right away that this was not going to be a typical young adult novel. Thankfully, it lived up to my very high expectations and standards for good young adult and fantasy literature.
“Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children”, the first in a trilogy, was published in 2011; and was made into a film last year (which I still have yet to see).
The story follows Jacob Portman, a teenager who grew up on his grandfather’s odd tales of “peculiar” children with strange gifts and monsters. However, as Jacob grew up, he, just like most children,stopped believing in his grandfather’s strange stories, until he died in the most bizarre and traumatic way.
Because of this, Jacob in a bid to see if his grandfather’s stories were true, along with his father as a chaperone, went to Cairnholm, where his grandfather sought refuge as a child during World War II.
While there, Jacob discovered that his grandfather’s were true, and gets caught in the crosshairs of a battle between two very powerful forces that he never knew existed.
I was pleasantly surprised by this book, as most of the other young adult novels I have read in the past few years were big disappointments for me.
This, in comparison, was a breath of fresh air, especially as Riggs was able to make use of interesting material (the old photographs), and familiar tropes (children with extraordinary powers), to tell an engaging and interesting tale in a wholly original way.
From here on out, there will be spoilers, so turn around now if you have not yet read the book.
The characters in the book were well-fleshed out, and even if you have seen these kinds of tropes again and again (especially in the age of superheroes and comic books), you cannot help but fall in love with this quirky cast of characters, all the way from Enoch, to the quirky yet strong Emma Bloom, and Jacob, who is pretty much a fish out of the water in their world, but manages to stay strong and make tough and practical calls when needed.
The way Riggs described the different places they were in, from Miss Peregrine’s loop to the dreary town of Cairnholm was descriptive to the point that I could imagine myself actually being there. He also managed to create a rich mythology which I cannot wait to learn more of in the succeeding novels.
The pacing of the story was just right, especially as he sort of separated the story into several distinct arcs- Jacob’s life before Cairnholm, the discovery of the “peculiars” at Cairnholm and the budding romance with Emma, and the discovery of his role against the hollowgast and the battle that ensued afterwards. The action scenes were also quite well done as I was figuratively at the edge of my seat, reading quickly so that I would be able to know what would happen next. He was also able to seamlessly blend in the horror and suspenseful elements within the story, as it came out organically, and actually made me quite afraid at certain points for Jacob, his father, and his friends.
I also liked the fact that even though there was a romance in the book, it felt organic and it did not go too overboard, especially with what is usually seen in young adult novels.
In the end, Riggs managed to pull off a fascinating debut novel that reminded me of a mix between Tim Burton and the X-Men, with interesting characters and world-building that just gives you enough to make you want to read the next two novels so that you can discover more of this new and peculiar world.
Enoch O’Connor & Millard Nullings
“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.”- Jacob Portman, Ch. 11, p. 351
- The part where Jacob went looking for his grandfather and first encountered the hollowgast that killed his grandfather.
- Jacob first stepping into Miss Peregrine’s loop.
- Emma’s and Jacob’s dive with the glowing fish.