A Peculiar Case of Tragedy, Mystery and The Extraordinary
Even in a young-adult fantasy novel, Ransom Riggs does not hold back when exploring themes of violence, tragedy, incest and alcoholism. Influenced by books in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling (which was hinted at in all the little critics’ reviews in the novel), Riggs’s debut novel prides its major theme along similar lines as that; exposing a raw, brutal and intriguing discovery of a secret world. When I first read that the novel involved some sort of a time-loop, Groundhog Day immediately came to mind, but this book is no run-of-the-mill recurring story.
So the story follows a boy, Jacob Portman, who ends up on an island off the coast of Wales, following his grandfather’s death. He finds himself at an orphanage (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) and he soon learns that the world he has stumbled into is a repeated day, where time stays unchanged, and that the day resets itself before the Nazis drop a bomb over the orphanage. Throughout the novel, the storyline contains dark tones that are both disconcerting and fascinating as Riggs relentlessly pursues adventure through vivid imagery. The kind of adventure that Riggs takes his readers on begins with the emotive language, while the narrative of the setting instantly puts readers at the scene, right in the middle of the action, starting with the remains of Miss Peregrine’s Home:
“What stood before me now was no refuge from monsters but a monster itself, staring down from the perch on the hill with vacant hunger.”
One discernible feature of this novel that anyone would notice almost immediately (or at least I did, anyway) are the strange photographs littered throughout the entirety of the novel. This visual dimension adds a very specific understanding to the development of characters and the way they are perceived. Without warning, the turn of the page brought me to these photographs and each time, it was an incredibly unpleasant shock. The strangeness of these photographs never seemed to wear off.
All in all, I really enjoyed the story, and how it presented ideas that were similar to Harry Potter, but at the same time fresh and unpredictable, with each page turn being as exciting as the last. Definitely a recommended read for anyone who wants the experience of stepping through a secret door, to venture into the unknown.