In my return to fiction (post PhD and five years of academic reading), I have committed myself to reading books that I purchased years ago and never got around to reading or books that I started and must see the story through. Miss Perigrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is one of the latter. I didn’t stop reading this book because I lost interest. A little thing called my dissertation happened. With the movie adaptation in theaters and because I am in the midst of the height of its popularity, I decided that I should finish it before spoilers reached me. I have very strong feelings about this book, both positive and negative. I think it’s a decent read, but I think it falls short of being a great example of combining image and text together in efforts of creating a magical world.
You know, I really liked the narrator. I found him believable and naive, albeit a little irritating as most teenage boys are. But I was eager to join him on the journey to this other world Riggs created. I loved the family connection with his grandpa and the questioning he does regarding his grandpa’s tales and how his experiences make him reevaluate his preconceived ideas about truth and imagination.
- The Idea
As a former teacher and a person who has delved into the possible powers of combining text and image for years as a graduate student, I geeked out hard at the possibility of this book. The idea of using old photos and creating a world from events and striving to create unforgettable characters from the people in the photographs made me giddy at the numerous ways Riggs could go with this story. This is one of those cases where judging a book by its cover likely made this books fly off the shelves. I know it made me pick it up.
- The World
Again, Riggs’ idea for these tall tales and this world for peculiar children is fantastic! I could easily see myself recommending this to middle school students if I were still in the classroom. It’s a good hook. One reviewer on GoodReads called it a “hipster Harry Potter.”
- The Execution of a Great Idea
Oh, Riggs. Your idea was brilliant. But it was so poorly executed. The photos are cool on their own, sure. But I didn’t need them in the middle of text without having them tied directly to the story. Some photos are there just because, which was very strange to me. That felt hyped up and gimmicky instead of purposeful. Other times, it felt like some photos were stuffed into the plot instead of the plot working around the photos. There just wasn’t a natural flow and connection from text to image for me as the story progressed.
- The X-Men Parallel Without a Real Purpose
The whole time, I just kept comparing Miss Peregrine to Xavier and her brood of super freaks to the X-Men. Pursuing a mutant superhuman angle is all well and good, but it just felt like it was chasing the same plot of the comic series without great followthrough. Both leaders create a safe haven from a hostile world and protection from regular humans who just wouldn’t understand. However, unlike X-Men, Riggs fails to create a ‘So What?’ for his peculiar children. Where did they come from? What is Riggs’ purpose with them? Just to hide? It isn’t as interesting as the X-Men concept and just comes off feeling a bit lackluster.