I’m pretty stoked for this movie in the fall. Naturally, I figured I would sate my excitement by reading the book, which seemed like a great plan at the time. And I really, really wanted to like it…unfortunately, I didn’t.
I’ll start with all the things there are to like about this book. It’s a tale about a bunch of peculiar kids with strange abilities who segregate themselves from the rest of the world in a “loop,” a day that repeats indefinitely, so long as the magic that created it holds. It’s told from the perspective of Jacob Portman, whose grandfather lived with Miss Peregrine until he left the loop, tired of being isolated and eager to see the world.
After his grandfather dies under mysterious circumstances that resemble a wild animal attack, Jacob begins to wonder if the extraordinary stories Abraham told him of his youth might be true. He travels to Wales, the site of Miss Peregrine’s home, to uncover the truth behind these tales when he begins to discover that he has the same peculiar ability as his grandfather: he can see the terrifying wights that hunt peculiars.
He suspects that these creatures killed his grandfather, and are now after him. With the help of Miss Peregrine and the other peculiar children, he hopes to destroy the wights and protect the home and family his grandfather loved.
It’s a pretty solid story. That said, it’s obviously a first novel, which isn’t to say that it’s bad, just conventional. The thing that I didn’t like, and which I felt was the book’s biggest detractor, was the inclusion of the photographs that inspired the story.
Hear me out. I think using antique photos for inspiration is a great idea, and have done the same. But I think Riggs relied to heavily on the photographs to guide the story, and it’s obvious that certain elements were forced merely to accommodate the pictures. Each time I came across an image, rather than draw me further into the story (which I’m sure was the intention), it yanked me back out of it. I also felt that the anecdotes presented by Jacob and his family to justify the photos throughout the novel distracted from the larger story. It made the entire narrative feel like a patchwork of different elements connected by a thin fiber of story.
There were a couple photographs that made this worse, either because they directly contradicted the story, or they just didn’t make sense. Here are a few I took issue with:
June is clearly stamped on the bottom, but isn’t this supposed to be at Halloween? Why not edit the photo caption? Or, why not tell the more interesting story of why on earth this child is dressed up in the middle of the summer?
A town in Wales, which barely has modern electricity/communication now, had power lines in the early 20th century?
And this just doesn’t make any sense at all. Why was this even necessary to amplify the threat?
These detours through the photographs didn’t lend much to the story, and didn’t help develop the characters. The time taken here could have been better spent exploring the relationships among the children and Miss Peregrine, or establishing the mechanics of this peculiar world.