The details are so particular and the characters so believable in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs, (2013, 382 pages), that for the first several pages of reading it I thought it was a memoir. Here is a summary from Goodreads:
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.
As I remember, in third grade my class had Creative Writing every day. I don’t recall being taught any story structure. We were just left alone to write a story based on a magazine picture prompt. Riggs would have rocked this assignment, because his book incorporates into the story several vintage black and white photographs, copies of which are in the book. But according to an author interview, the book wasn’t even Riggs idea. He reports that he brought his collection of photographs to his editor with the idea of writing some kind of children’s book around them. The editor suggested he write a narrative.This book will make you want to go to a garage sale and search for photographs, but you could search a lifetime and not find any as weird as these. I love the fact that Riggs credits the collectors whose photos he uses in the book.(Watch a fascinating youtube montage of more of Riggs’ photographs here. It’s very hard-hitting; consider yourself warned.)
I loved the voice of the 16-year old narrator of this book who with his sarcasm at first evoked Holden Caufield for me, but whose earnestness later shines through. I don’t want to say much about the time travel in this book because in this case I think a reader needs to see that unfold. I will say that time travel is not really front and center in the book, as compared to many other time travel stories. As the plot heated up toward the end of the book, I actually found it less interesting, but that’s probably just because I’m weird. (Not a plot person.) I found the book more creepy than scary, and would recommend it for ages 12 and up. Furthermore, this is definitely one of those YA books that adults might appreciate even more than teens.
Finally, here’s a review I enjoyed from a 10-year old at Common Sense Media. I appreciated the detail about the kissing:
I am ten years old am in love with this book!! Sure it has some swears, but very mild, and ones that kids ages 9 and up would already know about. The kissing is rare, and when they do kiss, they don’t slobber each other, just a good night kiss. I think this is perfect for kids ages 10 and up. It has some violence, but no gore, or a ton of blood.
This book takes the the mold, throws it on the floor, and shatters it into a bunch of pieces. It’s a lot of fun!