I have to say, I had my doubts. I was ready to throw this into the Goon Squad and read it while stewing, sweating, and turning red with my passionate loathing. A bit of post-Christmas grinchness to begin my book reading. BUT, stop it right there.
THIS BOOK WAS FACKING AMAZING. (I’m testing out alternatives to one of my favorite curse words). And I believe just after I finished it, I tweeted about how facking amazing it was and then someone with beautiful blonde hair (@ashleybethard) told me that TIM BURTON (only the man who created the magic of Nightmare before Christmas, Coraline, Alice in Wonderland, Sweeney Todd) is shopping around the movie rights. This inevitably means that the lovely lady to play Miss Peregrine (in my dreams and wild fantasies) will be Helena Bonham Carter (the lady who wears mismatched shoes to award shows and has hair like a spaz-tastic birds nest. But, I digress (and get ahead of myself).
Let’s start here: Sometimes when I read young adult fiction I get frustrated at the lack of sub-plot, or the lack of imaginative and beautiful language (because some how Young Adult translates into “dumb-down” or “water-down”). Or, people just completely remove sexual tension because teens “aren’t ready,” which is obviously, ludicrous, but I won’t even start in on that). It happens all the time, just read Sarah Dessen (who I actually really like on twitter, but I’m not really into her book relationships). I’m not sure young adult authors do this on purpose or it’s their editors who tell them to write less…literary, and more…brown-noser in high school english class. There are authors who are pushing boundaries in young adult literature – don’t get me wrong and leave a disgustingly cynical comment. These include: Laurie Halse Anderson, Sonya Hartnett, Judy Blume, Salinger.
While, maybe, Ransom Riggs didn’t surprise me with his use of language or word choice, the pace of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children solely makes up for that.
In any adventure or fantasy book, you want a reader who can completely absorb to the characters, to the main characters triumphs and losses and inevitable try, try again. You want a young adult to connect to the main character, or a side character, or someone who is emotionally supportive to him in the novel and then turns into someone in your own life who is emotionally supportive. (What kid doesn’t want to leave their parents every once in a while and embark on a magical journey with adults who seem to know them better than their parents? It’s like a teenagers dream).
The way authors can really set this sort of “have to turn the page, will eat my hand if I don’t turn the page, turn the page, turn the page, turn the page” tone is done through pacing. If there are always side-steps of excitement and places where the character is facing even a minor problem, you force yourself to read through it – no matter what time of night. I’m sure all of you have heard this before, but when I was on the third book of the Twilight series, I didn’t pee for a day. Seriously, I sat in my bed, and read. Not because those books are particularly wonderful in writing merit, but because something is always going wrong – someone is always stalking Bella. And Riggs creates that sort of atmosphere with Peculiar Children. Just the addition of an angry fish monger, or barman, can drown a person completely in the text and keep them in the loop.
While every writer out there, and I know … they’re everywhere, wants to eventually win the National Book, or the Pulitzer, there’s always the idea of being a best seller, and having people love you. Obviously, this book conquers the idea of obsession. People are talking about Peculiar Children, people want to read it for the pictures alone.
I think all of this over-analyzing just gives more credit to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. It took me out of my usual genre (literary) and placed me in a world of carnival sideshows. And that goes to another thing I usually don’t like in my book. I do not … or rarely do I…like photos in my books. I like to imagine the characters for myself, I like the authors description of characters and landscape to complete in-wrap my mind and place me in the middle of the cornfield, against the stalks, with the kernels scattered around my feet. (mmmmm…corn, the taste of butter in my mouth because of my natural tendencies to add butter to everything). While there are pictures scattered throughout Peculiar Children they don’t take away from the story. In fact, dare I say it, they add to the story.
My favorite pictures were of course the ones of the grandfather (the Grandfather Abe, and Aunt Susie as a child, and the Grandfather and Emma towards the end when they leave the photo. My least favorite photos (but secretly made me sick to my stomach) were pictures of the withe’s. The white-eyed Santa, and especially the white-eyed surgeon. O.M.G., talk about nightmares peeping out of your closet, the gloss-eyed monsters.
There is one thing I have questions about: are Abe and Jacob somehow supposed to reference a religious subtext that I completely missed? Am I writing the best college student essay I can right now? Does this even matter?
Right now, all that matters in my mind is that Ransom Riggs is at a bare desk somewhere, on lockdown, with just a pencil in hand, and behind ear, writing the sequel to this book. I know, I know, we’re all going to have to wait for the second one until the movie comes out so that they time it just perfectly for book sales, but seriously, I hope it just swims right on down his veins from brain to fingers and he produces an epic book where *spoiler* Miss Peregrine becomes less squawky and more-head mistress. (Maybe that wasn’t the biggest spoiler I could give).
I’m worried about Millard, and Miss Avocet. And the withes with their shadow friends opening tentacle mouths. Funny that the only picture of them was hand-drawn in the book. Thank God, actually because if it was a real vintage photo, I wouldn’t sleep for weeks. Honestly, after I finished this book late into the night, I couldn’t sleep anyway because my mind was propelling through what could happen in the next book. How many loops are we going to experience? Where in the world will Riggs take us, and when? I, for one, would like to be a part of a plague because I think that fits in well with “the creepy factor,” as did the Holocaust. The mention of the bombs (landing on Adam’s shrub, green finger) was one of the most thrilling parts of the book, AND it adds historical perspective to high school students.
Should schools everywhere add this to their book list? YES. Will parents be in uproar and talk about it being a book that worships the devil, and/or causes their children to hate their Bible belt religion? YES. Will I care? NO. (add the book! add the book! add the book)!
I had an interview this morning where I was asked about absorption and how to best teach this (which is not through analytical study) and so that may be why this blog got a little ridiculous on the analytical side. I’ve been thinking all day (even napping over the stress of it all, I guess that’s what my go-to stress reliever is, sleep….at least it’s not Oreos).
As always, links:
Blog Book Reviews:
- S. Krishna’s Book Review
- Well Read Wife Review
- Stainless Steel Droppings
- Mom’s Tree House
- Strictly Books
One final thing: I’m keeping this book forever.