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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Ransom Riggs
Quirk Books

Peculiar And Photos Too
by Carol Divish (1-0)

In Ransom Riggs’s debut novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Jacob has a close relationship with his grandfather and is fascinated by the outlandish stories he tells about his childhood during the atrocities of WWII, stories of children who could do amazing things—all watched by a bird who smoked a pipe. When he sees a monster at the scene of his grandfather’s death, he decides he must track down the truth behind the stories.

Armed with a box of creepy old photos and a letter suggesting the home might still exist, Jacob finds himself on a rocky island in Wales that has only one land line in the village and no cell reception, hoping that someone remembers the home filled with strange kids.

The mystery unfolds as Jacob discovers the bombed-out house with a stash of even more pictures, and unexplained deaths strike the village.

The novel moves quickly but sacrifices characterization for story. The baddie is telegraphed a little early, so the question isn’t who he is, but how he fits into the plot. There are also many lingering questions about the rules of the time loop, but all of these issues are easily overlooked in the midst of an exciting story.

The creepy antique photos come interspersed just as Jacob finds them in the story. Odd pictures of a face on the back of a head, a girl floating inches above the ground, and a reflecting pool that displays two girls when only one stands at the surface—all unretouched photos from collectors.

What ultimately becomes a story of monsters and time loops starts like an exciting plot line from The X-Files but ends with a whimpering set-up for the sequel. Even so, if the sequel is like this one, I’ll buy and devour it.

Overly Familiar
by Corey Michael Dalton (0-0)

I like X-men comics and Groundhog Day and Harry Potter and Time Bandits as much as the next guy. Unless the next guy happens to be Ransom Riggs who has taken pieces of those works and sewn them together into a Frankenstein’s monster called Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. And like that big, reanimated lug, Riggs’s young adult novel lumbers aimlessly for much of its 352 pages, jerking along with little sense of purpose or direction.

The book starts out with promise. Jacob, a kid from Florida, learns about a mysterious home for mutant children from his grandfather. Soon Jacob is left with just the old man’s dying words to guide him to the home. Good set-up, right? As a bonus, the writing is solid and Jacob’s narration is consistent and engaging. Riggs even spices things up with vintage, found photographs to illustrate the mutant kids.

But then the novel goes south. First, Riggs introduces several characters (Jacob’s best friend, his uncles, an entertaining pair of wannabe Welsh rappers) that appear and disappear to no real end. Then he spends the bulk of two chapters describing—in laborious detail—an abandoned house. Soon even the creepy photographs become ponderous; after the first five or six, they feel extraneous, like Riggs is writing entire pages of text just to set up the appearance of a photo that may or may not further the story. And it doesn’t help that the titular character, Miss Peregrine, could have been renamed Miss Plot Exposition.

After the book goes off the rails, it never rights itself. The ending doesn’t wrap up any of the major plot points; it simply launches the kids on their next quest, setting up the imminent sequel. I think I’ll read about Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters instead.

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