Saturday, May 21, 2016

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Jacob is the grandson of a Jewish WWII veteran who grows up hearing stories of his grandfather's fantastic friends in his childhood. As a small boy, Jacob believed every word and loved that he grandfather fought monsters with 3 tongues and contorted bodies. When he is about 7 or 8, other children start making fun of him for his belief in "fairy stories", so his grandfather lays off. At 15, Jacob watches his grandfather die after a gruesome attack from an unknown "monster". This traumatic event causes Jacob to be haunted by nightmares for months. At his 16th birthday, he is given a book from his grandfather's belongings that was intended for him. The book contains a letter from his old headmistress asking when he will return to see them. Jacob decides to go to Wales himself and find the island where his grandfather spent his happiest years, only to find out that the house was blown up during the war and all the children died. But the letter was dated from the 1970s - so how could they be dead? This notion leads him on an adventure through time to meet a group of children with magical abilities who are hiding from the same monsters his grandfather spent his life killing.

After seeing this book everywhere for months (and putting it off in spite of its intriguing cover and title since it's a YA book), I finally succumbed to pop culture and read it. Big mistake on my part. I'll start by reiterating my absolute distaste for what the YA genre as a whole has become. This book fit that bill perfectly. I still can't decide what age this was written for. One minute it will use what feel like deliberately placed "vocabulary words" only to follow it up with swearing or prolific use of the word "turds". I just can't respect a book that says "turds" so much, and I have a harder time respecting myself for keeping reading said book. I guess my confusion is that when I was a kid I would always want to read books where the main character was slightly older than me (since all kids wish they were older), so what's with all the language if the book will be read by pre-teens? Anyway, I realize that may just be my personal preferences, but I had other issues as well. The entire time traveling premise was way too convoluted for me. The entire "this is what is going on" monologue from Miss Peregrine is so convenient that the story would make absolutely no sense if you cut out just one or two paragraphs. I call foul with that. Such sentences as, "only birds can control time," as if that'st just an understood thing in the real world are down right ridiculous. The pivotal point the plot is based on just didn't sit right - like it wasn't thought out enough or explained in enough detail - and that threw me off the rest of the story. I had to keep reminding myself, "it's a YA book, let it go for what it is," in order to get through it. I finished it, but it never really redeemed itself for me. That said, I know some people love this book and this genre in general, so I can only assume this is my personal grudge. Also, can I just say that this felt like a total X-Men rip off with a time traveling twist? To be fair and show I'm a good sport, I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

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