Saturday, August 18, 2012

On 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children'

"Stars, too, were time travelers. How many of those ancient points of light were the last echoes of the suns now dead? How many had been born but their light not yet come this far? If all the suns but ours collapsed tonight, how many lifetimes would it take us to realize that we were alone? I have always known the sky was full of mysteries, but not until now had I realized how full of them the earth was."
This line in Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was one of the musings of Jacob Portman, a boy who has always been fascinated by the stories told by his grandfather Abe--stories about Abe's childhood, the peculiar kids he grew up with, even the monsters they were running from--and the photographs he showed to prove them. But when Jacob realized that he is already too old for fairy tales, he was convinced that these stories were only made up. It was not until the day of his grandfather's death that he began to question again which is true and which is not, for on that same day he saw the creature common in the stories he dismissed as unreal. And for the days after the tragedy, that creature continued to haunt him in his dreams. This urged Jacob to set out on an adventure to find out what his grandfather meant in his last words, and perhaps uncover the truth behind all the stories.

The book combines prose and vintage photographs which is an effective technique in creating a fantasy world such as this. For me, it felt like I was watching a movie in my head, the pictures contributing a lot in setting up the mood.
The first parts of the story came out as real spooky to me. There were moments during my reading when I was careful not to turn the pages instantly because another creepy photograph of a kid might come into view again. Seeing Emma, the girl who can conjure fire in her hand, and her piercing look against the dark background that is the page was enough for me to learn my lesson and take precaution. I decided this was a horror story, until I read on and realized that it's actually more of an adventure (by this time, I've already grown accustomed to the peculiar kids' photos).

The protagonist, Jacob, reminds me of Charlie of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. He considers himself a social outcast, even from his own home, and he frequently muses about whether or not he really belongs in that ordinary place. He is also a smart kid, but is often misunderstood. I sympathized when his granddad passed away because it seemed like he's the only one who truly cared about him. And so when faced by the dilemma of choosing between the world where he grew up and the one where he fits in, it's not surprising that he chose the latter. Aside from the identity crisis and the decision making, the story also had a love angle between Jacob and (that creepy girl scaring the hell out of me but who turned out to be rather pretty in other high-exposure photos) Emma. Now that I look at it again, it can also be classified under the coming-of-age genre.

There were a lot more characters, the peculiar kids and Miss Peregrine, but nothing much was elaborated about them, probably because they were too many? Heh. Although I could remember most of them based on their supernatural abilities, some others are striking, too. Millard's fascination of recording the detailed happenings on 3rd of September. Enoch and his suspicious motives behind revealing to Jacob some secrets of the peculiar kids. Victor and his death that is still unclear to me. Emma and her love for Abe--yes, Jacob's grandfather--even though she knew he wasn't coming back to stay. I'm hoping the sequel will tell us more about the other characters.

Overall, I liked it. Riggs' narrative is easy but vivid enough for the reader to be transported to the world he envisioned.

Rating: 4/5

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