If you’ve browsed the YA shelves lately, you will have probably chanced upon a thick-ish book with a black and white cover. The title is written in old-fashioned script. The photo on the cover is of a pudge-faced girl in what looks like a turn of the century shift, a sort of tiara shading her eyes. If you look closer, you will notice that she is floating. On the back are other intriguing black and white photos. Two bald headed clown children. A girl standing alone be a pond, but the pond reflects two girls. A cloaked man and a boy going towards the light through a tunnel. A boy dressed as a bunny, crumpled on the sidewalk in despair.
Intrigued? I know I was. I finally got my hands on a copy (some lovely soul donated it to my library) and had some time to read it this March break.
The story is told through the perspective of Jacob, a slacker from a wealthy family in Florida. He grew up on his grandfather’s stories, of monsters in his native Poland, of the war and how it decimated his family, and of his time as an orphan in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. When Jacob witnesses the violent death of his grandfather, everyone thinks he has had a nervous breakdown, including himself. It takes a trip to the small little Welsh island and to the home for peculiar children for him to find out the truth.
Through out this very creepy story are black and white pictures the author has used with permission form their collectors. And this is the part I find the most fascinating – the photos are all real. They have been collected through garage sales, bazaars by a few officianados. Riggs uses the photos as compliments to the text- they depict the peculiar children – the girl on the cover for instance turns out to be Olive the levitating girl. There is an invisible boy. A strong girl.
Another original aspect of the story is Riggs’ manipulation of time. The home lives in a time loop- where they re-live the same day over and over. This is what keeps them safe from the monsters and from the suspicious eyes of a world not ready to accept them.
I enjoyed this story quite a bit- the fantastic elements were well-thought out, imaginative and original. The character of Jacob, a typical teenage boy with not a lot of ambition or drive, is well-developed and believable as is his love interest Emma, a girl who can make fire out of her hands.
Riggs leaves the ending open for a sequel, though not so much in a bad spot that you want to kidnap the author and make them tell you the ending right now (the second Hunger Games anyone?). Still, I look forward to the next installment if only to get a glimpse at some of the fascinating photos.
But don’t take my word for it- watch his book trailer. Riggs was a filmmaker before he was a novelist, so it captures the creepy feel of the book wonderfully!