So this horror-esque picture novel is about a boy named Jacob Portman who lives a pretty tedious life at a retail store where the only reason he hasn't been fired is his family owns the company. His Grandpa Abe has been telling him for years to watch out for these monsters and these children from photos he gives him. One is of a meditating girl, the other of a boy lifting a boulder with one hand and with ease, a boy swarmed with bees, the list goes on! But as the years pass, Jacob simply sees his grandpa as crazy and is just losing his mind from old age. Then his grandpa is seen bleeding and slumped over in his house with a tentacled creature in front of him before it slithers away, and Grandpa gives Jacob loose instructions as his last breath. And when Jacob finds an old note from someone named Alma Peregrine for his birthday, he takes his dad to the mysterious island of Cairnholm, UK to investigate, all the while everyone thinks he's insane for seeing the thing that killed Abe.
One thing that I think Ransom Riggs deserves credit for no matter if you loved or hated this book, is that the photos are real and legitimate. How, we don't know, but they are. Not only do they give chills and interesting background, but each picture covers up a whole page, letting readers feel they are devouring the book. They'll be on page 30, the next thing you know, they're on page 100. The pictures aren't the only thing that help this though. There's also the fact that this book is a non-stop suspense ride, full of pleasuring fantasy and a writing style that never takes the simple path and never any convoluted sentences. When Jacob goes to explore this old house, there is a perfect description of one that has been abandoned for generations and has mixed into the wildlife. All of this wouldn't really matter to me if there wasn't suspense. Thanks to the never ending gloom and the never ending pictures, this book is drugged with it. Oh, and did I mention the ending is killer?
Compared to some of the other characters, Jacob isn't stupendous, and while having a non-special protagonist didn't work for me in The Name of the Star, this time it works because Jacob adds to the story as many ways as an ordinary kid could possibly give and also helps whenever there's danger like a true boss.
These days, whenever I read a terrific book, I usually find a flaw hidden, and whenever I read a terrible book, I'll find something to prevent a completely cruel grade. This is still the case here. It's the book's sense of time. I felt that the amount of time the peculiar children are isolated and the time gap between Jacob's grandfather's death and the time he gets the letter was too long, and there is a minor character death where despite the fact he wasn't very important, maybe there should've been more tears. But if those are the only flaws I can find in the entire book while I was easily able to devour it in less than three days, I can live with it. If I don't think a book will be superb enough to get reluctant readers into readers like me, I don't give them the grade I have given this one. And about the time matters; the drama of time devouring everything is exuberant and made me feel sorry for the people who are trapped in time; I won't spoil it, but it's quite Coraline-y.
There is also a terrific mystery as to who has been going around performing dastardly crimes that may be related to the home, and boy! The turnabout for the culprit not only makes sense but feels hard until it turns out it was easy. Jacob's dad is also in the mix, and I was worried I would have to point out Jacob wasn't putting his dad in the mix enough but when the ending came up, I was relieved more than Jacob was that no, Riggs showed us that his dad has feelings and flair.
I think Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children may be the best picture book ever made, from being creepy to creative to adventurous to sad and to the fact that the pictures are real and everything about them - and the writing - makes me thirst for the next instalment as much as the peculiars are for the future. Maybe author Ransom Riggs is a peculiar. He certainly has a magic writing hand.