Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Today is another two for one!

I honestly thought long and hard about breaking these two books up, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

In my mind they are inseparable. I think that’s because I read them one after the other. Man, I flew through these books!

Not only were they not difficult, they are low YA, but they were action packed. The characters promise to be peculiar and the plot promises to be hairy!

This is a SPOILER-FREE book review! Even though I am reviewing both I won’t go into too much detail. I’ll give you the plot synopsis for both books at the bottom of this review so you can choose to read both or just one.

 

Going into Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, the only thing I knew for sure was the obvious inclusion of strange photography. I guessed that this book would revolve around a orphanage of sorts. I even teetered on believing it might be about a traveling freak show. I wasn’t completely wrong on the latter part.

From the start, Ransom Riggs throws at the reader some great characters and great fun.

Jacob is your average teenage boy and when I say average here, I don’t mean average boy with flawless skin. Jacob has an undesirable job, a strange family, an even stranger best friend, quirky personality traits, and a crazy grandfather. Jacob is immediately relatable and endearing. I was immediately rooting for him.

My favorite part about Jacob is how real he is. His every reaction felt normal and natural. His inner, teen, dialog had me laughing and eye rolling. This story is a great example of a grown author tapping into his inner young adult to write in a teen’s perspective. I felt that this story had great character development. As a ‘coming of age’ sort of novel this book really does well. It’s an unconventional spin, but it still manages to be touching.

Horror?

There are aspects of both books that were unexpectedly gruesome and scary. There is one particular aspect of our ‘evil’ characters that truly terrify the pants off of me. If you read the books then I’m sure you agree that the way those things walk sounds like something straight from a horror flick. (Once again, if you read the book I think you know what I’m talking about.)

And yet, I don’t think this book was meant to be horror. The focus certainly wasn’t on the terror of the novel. I would be quick to call this book more alternative historical fiction than horror. In that aspect I felt that the book was confused. Horror or no?

Action!

I loved the action in both books. This was another place where I felt the story telling was very real. The characters go through real hardship and respond realistically. Not everyone is able to survive, thrive, or wants to fight evil! Some of us truly are just sheep in the midst of chaos. I like that Jacob goes through that quandry more than once. If you felt there wasn’t enough Action in the Miss Peregrine’s then hold out for Hollow City! It delivers!

Overall, Hollow City improved on everything that Miss Peregrine’s lacked or I wanted more of.

I wanted to know more about the peculiar children- you find out more of their back stories and their relationships.
I wanted to see more action- Action is multiplied by five.
I wanted to know more about this peculiar setting/history- loads is explained in Hollow City.
I wanted Jacob to become more awesome- Awesome factor is doubled.

Er- Romance?

Uh…yeah….I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll just say this: I really wish the romance had not happened. That was just- er, um…wrong.

Photography: Gutsy or Gimmicky?

I struggled with the photographs throughout both books.

At first, I thought the photographs were an original, neat, and an intriguing idea. As I progressed in the story I wished there were less of them. In the beginning, the pictures make sense. They directly correspond to the story. As the story progresses and more of these photographs are explained or introduced they become more of a distraction. I’m fully capable of imagining what these people or things look like. In fact, on several occasions, I liked the way my mind put together the descriptions more than the images.

I give Riggs huge kudos for doing something I haven’t seen in a modern novel. It had to be incredibly difficult to sell the ideas of these photographs strewn thoughout his story. And they were fun. But in the second novel these pictures are even less necessary. They serve absolutely zero purpose in the second book. In the second book there aren’t even any pictures taken, it’s like snapshots of what Jacob sees which makes the idea of the photos completely wrong.

I still can’t decide if the story would be the same or better without the pictures, but they were interesting. I’ll give him that.

 

Overall, these books are sweet, heartbreaking, quirky, and mesmerizing. I highly recommend as a summer read. This book is certain to give you a good poolside adventure. I will certainly be sharing these books with my freshman. This book was just too much fun not to share! I can’t wait for the next in the trilogy! (I think it’s just going to be a trilogy…)

Story Synopsis!

Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.(Goodreads)

 

 

 

 

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

 

 

The extraordinary journey that began in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children continues as Jacob Portman and his newfound friends journey to London the peculiar capital of the world. But in this war-torn city, hideous surprises lurk around every corner. Like its predecessor, this second novel in the Peculiar Children series blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reacting experience. (Goodreads)

 

 

 

 
Check out Ransom Riggs: Here
Follow me on Goodreads: Here

Click the pictures for the books’ Goodreads pages!

Thanks for reading! (sorry for skipping out last week. I was feeling the summer heat! :p )

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Let Them Read

If you are particularly bookish then I am sure you are aware of the hubub over Young Adult Literature.

If you want to fan the flames and put a hornet in your pocket then you are more than welcome to read the original article, “Against YA” by Ruth Graham that I will be replying and referring to.

I grappled with whether I would write about this article or not. I’m not one to give into fad articles or continue an argument passed its expiration date. I surely do not want to perpetuate this campaign against YA. But a lot of family and friends have asked me about my opinion on this topic so I thought I would wrangle my thoughts and lay them flat for you to peruse.

The skinny of my opinion is this: Fiction books are meant for entertainment and enlightenment is a byproduct.

If a person reads a book they enjoy and has an enjoyable experience with a book then they are more likely to pick up another book and another. Young Adult is a gateway drug. I can’t tell you how many people I know who read Harry Potter then picked up Rowling’s Casual Vacancy and now her second novel The Cuckoo’s Calling.

So I say, if people are picking up books let them read.

The long version:

A couple of things you should know about me before I begin:

I studied English and Education in University and have always had a love for the written word.
I hardly read anything considered ‘young adult’ besides Twilight in High School.
I am a High School English teacher.
I read a ton more Young Adult Fiction now than I did when I was a teen.
I read Adult Fiction.
I consider myself to be well read.

With all of that laid out for you, let me begin.

My life in the literary realm began as such:

Aren’t you an ENGLISH MAJOR?

Once I declared my major as English a great, unfathomable phenomena occurred in my life. There was a shift that could almost be felt. It started out with the occasional quip whenever I would make a grammatical error or spell incorrectly. “Aren’t you an English Major?” People would tease. Apparently, once I announced I was an English Major all of my flaws in reading and writing were supposed to disappear.

I was also supposed to become an authority on literature. The books I read were supposed to be of the highest quality. Anything less than Tolstoy or Steinbeck was a whimsy I was wasting my time with. As such, I was surprised when a professor discussed with another student, in length, his love of the Castle novels and television show. Castle? Richard Castle is not a literary giant! How could my beloved professor stoop so low! But that smile on his face! That sheer delight! He must truly enjoy what he is reading. Yes, even Doctorates in English enjoy the serial novel.

Is this a ‘GOOD’ book?

Let me tell you about the most difficult class of my college career: Literary Criticism. If you think Literary Criticism is a bunch of persnickety people writing lofty book reviews for the Post or New York Times, then you would be in the same boat as I was when I embarked on this course. Literary Criticism questions the very fabric of our word systems. There are some criticisms that even question whether a story can even be told and communicated effectively! These criticisms go beyond the literary and into the philosophical realm! I was glad that the class was only fifty minutes, three times a week or I would have had a nosebleed from my brains exploding by the end of the period.

Literature is a big deal and so is what we consider to be ‘literature’.

The most baffling thing that has happened around me as an English major/teacher is the amount of people, friends even, that have asked me the question: “This this a Good book?” To which I would readily reply, “Oh yeah, it’s great. I liked it.” Their puzzled looks would soon lead to my realization that they weren’t asking if it was an enjoyable book, but if it was considered ‘literary’.

My English Professor Dr. Karen Prior once said, “There is a difference between literature and Lit-er-a-ture [imply British accent and dramatic hand wave on the latter word].” What she was getting at is that all writing is literature, but not all literature is literature. Get it?

Oh yes, literary, the pinnacle platform to which all literature should aspire to be. Let me get my Literary Criticism book out- oh wait, it’s propping up my uneven kitchen table. Don’t get me wrong. There is great merit in literary fiction. In fact, I love reading a great novel of high literary prowess. Once you read prose that flows so beautifully with writing that has your mind constantly working, chewing, like a turbine to process, you ache for another work just as formidable. If a work is equal parts challenging and entertaining then it is even more worthy of praise.

Not every work can be, or should be, a Crime and Punishment or The Road.

Ssh, it’s my GUILTY PLEASURE.

I take pride in telling people that I don’t have any ‘guilty reads’. I’m not reading any books on an eReader because I don’t want anyone to know what I’m reading. I’m not hiding under my blanket with a flashlight. I don’t cover my face when I walk down the YA aisle.

I’ll tell you why.

No one should be ASHAMED for READING. I think one of the greatest flaws in Graham’s article is that she doesn’t make the distinction between Literary Fiction and ‘the trash’ that she so happily wants to lump together. Which, I beg to argue that the books she mentioned are not trashy in the least. Her failure to differentiate these two genres (yes, they are genres according to the great Literary Criticism) are what has everyone up in arms.

I read Charles Dickens for pleasure. I read Stephen King for pleasure. I read Deborah Harkness for pleasure and I read Suzanne Collins for pleasure. Two of those authors take me much longer to read than the other two. So I tend to read more of one than the other.

Reading Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is not something I’m ashamed of because the story is fun and the characters are interesting. I’ve never seen another author (Adult or YA) use photographs in a novel the way he has. He is doing something innovative and it doesn’t matter that the book is geared toward a 16 year old because I can remember what being a 16 year old feels like.

A well BALANCED diet.

I argue that books get a lot more scrutiny as entertainment than television, film, and games do. Reading, overall, is held up on a pedestal because you need a learned ability to enjoy it. Therefore, people feel superior for the pure fact that they can enjoy it while others can’t. But let’s take books and stack it up against the television.

I hope Ms. Graham is at home watching PBS Masterpiece Theater, Downton Abbey, and Cosmos every night lest she indulge in the common man’s non-intellectual slop. And beyond the television, she better not even think about stepping into a theater for the next twenty years as Young Adult geared stories such as superhero comics, The Hunger Games, and any movie with main characters aged between the years of 13-25 take the screen. She may get dumbed down.

The quality of our diet in entertainment is all about balance.

I think it is because I have read ‘the classics’ that I am able to enjoy books on a deeper level. I pick up on character tropes, themes, and literary allusions in Adult Fiction and Young Adult Fiction far more often than the average reader because of my extensive knowledge. Do I doubt that I could enjoy Adult Fiction without that knowledge? No.

I read graphic novels, comic books, poetry, Adult Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. I fill my head with words and then use my Adult discernment to conclude what is good and worthy to keep and what is meant to throw away. If I read Young Adult literature will I start pining over the bad boy and shop at American Eagle again? No. Adult, Young Adult readers are fully aware of what they are reading. There’s no confusion over how old we are and that we have to return to reality in the very next hour.

Like all fiction, Young Adult provides a trip away from reality.

I’m assuming Ruth Graham is a reader and so I must ask why she would be so upset that people are reading?

Don’t discourage the people from enjoying a story.

Let them read.

 

 

Thank you for reading.