Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Book Review of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. 

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

Series: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Book 1)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Quirk Books; Reprint edition (June 4, 2013)
Page Count: 382 pages

After seeing the above book trailer, I've wanted to read this book. The whole concept seemed so strange, creepy, and cool. Years later, I finally got around to reading this story and I'm so happy I did!

Note: I know this wasn't the intended review, but I've had a lot of serious things come up and because of this I couldn't get Songkeeper read in time. I plan to put up the review next week. 

The Plot: This is a fantastically strange and mysterious story. For a while, you're not sure what's real and what isn't, but then you're swept into the incredible world of peculiars. The story is full of twists and turns that keep you turning pages as you thirst for the knowledge of this hidden world. I know a lot of people are a bit nervous that this story is scary. Though there are some chilling parts, I wouldn't consider this horror or too scary. The photography included add this extra sense of realism. You feel like you're uncovering each of these letters and photos just like Jacob is. I've never read a book like this before, but I absolutely love it!

The Characters: Jacob is a cool protagonist. He's brave, curious, compassionate, and clever, and for a long time deals with thinking himself insane. 

All of the peculiars are unique and having intriguing, odd abilities. Emma can create fire in her hands, Olive can float, Millard is invisible, Bronwyn is super strong, Enoch can reanimate things, Hugh has bees living inside him, and Claire has a backmouth just to name a few. Miss Peregrine herself is of course an amazing character. I mean she can shapeshift and time travel. How cool is that? It's all just so wonderfully strange!

Other characters like Grandpa Portman, the rapping punks Dylan and Worm, Kev the Innkeeper, and Doctor Golan all add to the story to create a wonderful cast.

The Setting: Though the story starts in a quirky Floridian neighborhood, most of the book takes place on a small island in Wales. Even better the characters go between this island in the modern age and during World War II. This creates such an interesting setting as you step between the two times. Ransom Riggs describes it all in beautiful prose. 

Epic Things: Where do I even start? It's set in Wales. That's just awesome. All of the abilities are well so peculiar and fun. The ymbrynes like Miss Peregrine are especially interesting. I can't wait to go deeper into their culture in the next books. They're like female time lords! I loved the foreshadowing of the cairn by using old Celtic legend about bogs being portals to other worlds.

The Theme: Loneliness is definitely a big theme. Jacob only had one friend and even that friend wasn't a great one. Empathy is also another one. Jacob has a big heart for those in trouble. 

Content Cautions: The only thing I didn't really like about this book is the amount of profanity. There's not as much as in say the 5th Wave, but there's some to call question to. I counted thirteen uses of h***, twelve uses of d***, ten uses of piss, nine uses of sh**, eight uses of a***, six uses of ba****d, four uses of godd***, three uses of a**hole, two uses of Jesus as a swear, and one usage of bi***.

There is some notable violence such as a monster slaughtering sheep, a character stabbed in the eye, a character shot in the throat, a many having multiple gash wounds, and a dead man who's been partially ripped apart. The hollowgasts are creepy and could be scary to some. There is some kissing but not very much.

What We Can Take Away For Our Writing: 

1.) The Accents Worked - This book is set in the U.K. and that means accents! We had American, Welsh, English, and Cockney. On top of that he has the difference between the accents in the 1940s and in present day. Ransom Riggs did a great job at showing these characters accents in a way that these characters speak.

Modern Welsh: "Oh, and you'll need these. The generators stop running at ten since petrol's so bloody expensive to ship out, so either you get to bed early or you learn to love candles and kerosene. Hope it ain't too medieval for ya!" ~ Kev

1940s English: "Polite persons do not eavesdrop on the conversations of others!" ~ Miss Peregrine

1940s Welsh: "I don't know no Kev, and I don't fancy bein' fed stories. There ain't any rooms to let around here, and the only one lives upstairs is me!" ~ Bartender

1940s Cockney: "Soon as I figger out to train 'em up proper, I'll have a whole army like this. Only they'll be massive." ~ Enoch

As you can see by just using word selection and playing around with the grammar each of these accents sound vastly different. Barely any cut off words that can lead to confusion are used.

How this can be applied to writing: Accents can be a very tricky thing to write. If you don't write them out, the reader can often forget that the characters have an accent. If you overwrite them, then the readers can have a hard time understanding the character. When writing a character with an accent pay close attention to how to word their lines. Watch videos that feature people from the country and area that your characters are from and really study how they speak. My So Your Character Is From Another Country series is design to help out with this. The Australia, Canada, and New Zealand posts are up with more to come!

2.) Using Pictures and Documents in a Novel Worked - To be honest, I was a bit nervous about a story using pictures as part of the storytelling. I wasn't sure if it was going to take away from the writing, but the idea intrigued me enough for me to proceed anyway. The pictures are amazing! When I saw a dark page coming up, I grew excited about seeing what cool old photo I'd see next. I felt like I was looking through the old photos and documents beside Jacob and it made me feel more immersed in the story. It was such a cool experience.

How this can be applied to writing: This must be tricky to pitch to publishers, but using pictures and documents within a story adds a sense of realism that I've never experienced before. With all the new ways stories are being told, why not see if you can use them for your story? Watch out for copyrights when doing this or use your own photography to utilize this trick for your tale.

3.) Caps Worked and Parentheses Sometimes and Didn't Other Times - Many times throughout the book Riggs uses parentheses to insert a thought or caps to let you know someone IS TALKING REALLY LOUD. These had their pros and cons. The parentheses allowed some witty lines to be inserted, but much like Tolkien did they were also used to insert some bits of telling. The caps I felt like were mostly unneeded. There's only one instances where Bronwyn shouts for them to run where I believe the caps were necessary. They can often feel a bit childish.

How this can be applied to writing: Take care when uses caps or parentheses. They can be two-edged literary devices. At some points they can be great and others they can seem childish.

Conclusion: This is a great book. I highly recommend. It's chilling and strange without being scary. It has great characters and a fantastic plot. I hope the upcoming film does it justice! I'll update with my review of the film when it releases. In the mean time, read the book. Five stars!

About the Author:
Ransom Riggs grew up in Florida but now makes his home in the land of peculiar children -- Los Angeles. He was raised on a steady diet of ghost stories and British comedy, which probably explains the novels he writes. There's a nonzero chance he's in your house right now, watching you from underneath the bed. (Go ahead and check. We'll wait.) If not, you can find him on Twitter @ransomriggs.

If you liked this post, come back every other Tuesday for book reviews; Friday for tags, character interviews, and link-ups; Saturdays for writing advice and life updates; and Sundays for the Writerly Bundle which includes a new soundtrack piece, vocabulary word, and tea review!

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