This was another book that intrigued me around the time of our wedding and honeymoon. I was reading some good things about it, and the creeptastic cover taunted me from the shelves each time I left it in the bookstore. Like “The Night Circus,” I had it in my hand before boarding our flight to Ireland, and convinced myself that four books was more than enough to bring on our honeymoon, thank you very much. I also didn’t know what treasures awaited me at the Clifden Bookseller, so I forced myself to pass it up at that time and add it to my Christmas list.
Plot Summary (from Amazon) : As a kid, Jacob formed a special bond with his grandfather over his bizarre tales and photos of levitating girls and invisible boys. Now at 16, he is reeling from the old man’s unexpected death. Then Jacob is given a mysterious letter that propels him on a journey to the remote Welsh island where his grandfather grew up. There, he finds the children from the photographs–alive and well–despite the islanders’ assertion that all were killed decades ago. As Jacob begins to unravel more about his grandfather’s childhood, he suspects he is being trailed by a monster only he can see.
First, the obvious. This book is a very intriguing package. From the creepy cover art, to the antique photographs scattered throughout its pages, it’s an interesting reading experience. It’s been so long since I’ve read a book with pictures, much less one where the pictures are practically pivotal to the storytelling. They aid the reader so much in picturing many of the characters that reside at Miss Peregrine’s school. It’s the type of book that makes people do a double take, or stop by your desk to see what it is that you’re reading.
What would you do if the fantastic stories that your grandfather told you turned out to be true? For most of Jacob’s life, he’s heard about the island where his grandfather went to school with remarkable children to escape from the monsters that were pursuing him. Jacob’s parents explained that his grandfather was a holocaust survivor, and his stories were a way of coping with the extreme turns his life had taken. It’s only after Grandfather is killed, and Jacob sees something in the woods that he can’t wrap his brain around that he begins to dig more deeply into the stories he was told as a child.
Sounds like a creepy premise for a novel, right? (Here is where I may or may not stir some controversy… though judging from the majority of the reviews on GoodReads, people tend to agree with me.)
The story itself never quite lives up to its potential. Rather than explaining the mysteries that Jacob is trying to solve, the book states them and then expects you to just believe. I found some of the world-building lacking, while the focus instead rested on those photos that the author wanted to incorporate. (Example- Jacob is informed that birds are able to travel through time. Why? No idea. But that is why *spoiler alert* birds play heavily in the plot. See my issue?) This is coming from someone who spends a great deal of time reading sci-fi/fantasy/supernatural books, so it’s not a problem of the reader suspending disbelief. It’s just not well thought out.
The “mystery” is solved far too quickly, and instead we’re thrown into a “danger” subplot with a bit of love story mixed in. My feelings about the book are overwhelmingly lukewarm, and that’s extremely disappointing. Like “The Night Circus,” I was really looking forward to reading this one, but it didn’t live up to the story it was pitched to be. Further, it looks like it set the author up for a sequel.
Rant Time: Authors- Every book does NOT need to be the opening of a series. That’s phenomenal that you feel you have that much extra story to tell… But sometimes having the closure of a stand-alone piece of literature is that much more satisfying. It seems like practically ever book I pick up lately is the sneaky beginning of a series, and not knowing that fact going in is like getting literary blueballs. “Almost done almost done almost… AW DAMMIT!” In the case of “Miss Peregrine,” I’m not intrigued to find out where the story goes next.