When I picked up this book, written by Ransom Riggs, I had high hopes. It’s a novel which has been compiled with a lot of very interesting, very creepy black-and-white images, and that adds a lot of effect. When I opened the book, I was prepared to be blown away.
And what was my opinion of it? Hah.
It’s about Jacob, a sixteen year old rich kid living in the US, who has the strangest grandfather, Abe Portman. As a child, Abe told Jacob all sorts of wonderful ‘fairy tales’ about a magical place with children who had the coolest powers…an invisible boy, a girl who could float, a boy whose stomach was filled with bees…And as Jacob grew older, he stopped believing in these stories. Until Grandpa Portman dies in a tragic and gruesome way, his last dying wish to be that Jacob find the Bird in the Loop. Soon, Jacob realises that Abe Portman’s stories were not fiction.
Alrighty, all those who HAVEN’T guessed the plot, raise your hands.
That’s what I thought. What happens is this: Jacob goes to the island where Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is located, he finds the place, discovers these kids with special powers, realises that he’s got one too (oh my god, WHAT a surprise), and ends up defeating the bad guy. Lets give this book a hand for pure originality!
The concept is only vaguely different from any other YA piece I’ve seen. In Percy Jackson, you’re called a ‘demigod’, in Avatar: The Last Airbender, you’re called a ‘bender’, in X-Men, you’re called a ‘mutant’, and in this book, if you have a power, you’re called a ‘peculiar child’…I don’t have a specific problem with children having unique supernatural abilities, but come on. It gets old after a while. What I will say is that in this novel, at least the powers are slightly more interesting than levitation and manipulating water or something. (There is a girl who can produce fire, just like Avatar: The Last Airbender, and that girl who floats, which is technically levitation…)
The character development is almost as bad as the plot. Jacob is extraordinarily uninteresting to me, and he literally doesn’t seem to change throughout the book at all. Emma, the girl who can conjure fire, is–and there is no better way to put it–a Mary Sue. A character so flawless that it’s irritating. What’s with YA fiction and Mary Sues? She’s pretty and righteous and of course Jacob falls for her as quickly as humanly possible. Apparently she’s also supposed to be strong and independent and stuff. Cool. Whatever.
There are, however, some characters that amuse me. Miss Peregrine is one of them, because I like the way she talks. (“Admirers, paramours, sweethearts.” “Catastrophe, cataclysm, disaster!”) I also like Enoch, because he is really, really strange, and Millard, because he often talks a lot of sense. But that is about it.
All said and done, this book was a huge disappointment, and became astoundingly boring towards the last fifty pages. The only thing I fully enjoyed was the weird pictures. Here is a sample:
But in a novel, the writing must matter more. So I will be stacking this book away where I will never find it again.