This YA book was not what I was expecting! At least not when it started. I’d seen it on shelves for years, but I think I was expecting a haunted orphanage, third-person sort of fairy tale. When I began reading, I wasn’t prepared for as lovably flawed of a narrator as Jacob Portman, a wealthy Florida teenager who’s trying to get fired from his job. The writing was excellent and the book was, to steal a word from author Aimee Easterling, unputdownable. I was addicted to the story about the strange photographs of creepy children Jake’s grandfather kept, and how Jake witnesses his grandpa’s grisly and mysterious death, and especially his therapy sessions with Dr. Golan, after which Jake and his dad agree to visit the Welsh island of Cairnholm where Jake’s grandfather had once lived as a WWII child refugee.
Riggs’s writing is some of the best I’ve read. The book is enhanced by dozens of strange photographs procured by the author, which help the story unfold and come to life. In the second act, things take a turn for the wackier when Jake discovers a time loop in a cairn and is transported back to September 3, 1940. There, he meets Miss Peregrine -a Minerva McGonagall type of headmistress – and the same peculiar children, all with superhuman powers, from his grandpa’s photographs. This includes the feisty Emma, who was once his grandpa’s sweetheart, but who now has eyes for Jake. The witty dialogue, old-fashioned figures of speech, and U.K. slang really stood out among the new cast of characters, to the point where I felt I could really hear the kids speaking in their accents, each in his or her own unique voice.
I was fairly obsessed with the majority of the novel, until I came to the third act, and it began to play out more like an average YA fantasy novel. I had been more intrigued when Jake was straddling his real, present world and the time-loop world; but once we plunged into the full-fledged peculiarverse, I was ready for a resolution. I don’t plan on finishing this series soon, but I can see why this book is so acclaimed. Ransom Riggs writes with phenomenal skill!
“‘They may love you,’ she whispered, ‘but they’ll never understand.'” – p. 263
“Stars, too, were time travelers. How many of those ancient points of light were the last echoes of suns now dead? How many had been born but their light not yet come this far? If all the suns but ours collapsed tonight, how many lifetimes would it take us to realize that we were alone? I had always known the sky was full of mysteries – but not until now had I realized how full of them earth was.” – p. 338