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A Literarea Review: Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children

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It's an understatement to say the Young Adult book market has blossomed since the Harry Potter phenomenon hit the scene in the '90s. And it's an additional understatement to say that there have been many posers who've clutched at Potter's coattails along the way.

"Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children" definitely is capitalizing on the cavernous desire that seems to be out there for youth-targeted fantasy-based books. But it is not simply another Potter wannabe.

 

The books main character is Jacob, a 16-year old, who saw his grandfather Abe brutally killed in mysterious circumstances. When he was a child, Abe would regale young Jacob with fantastic stories and photos of supposedly magical children he knew when he was a child. Abe was of Polish decent and, during the war, he was sent to an orphanage. It was here, he told Jacob, that he met the children in the photos.

After his grandfather's mysterious murder (and hearing him talk about invisible monsters), Jacob sets off to find the truth about his grandfather's past. This takes him (and his father) to an island off of Scotland where the orphanage is rumored to be. Jacob finds the orphanage which was destroyed by Nazi bombing raids.

While exploring the dilapidated remains he catches a glimpse of some strange children watching him who run off after they realize they've been seen. Jacob chases the children through a bog but loses them. He comes to a cairn (a pile of man-piled stones) which, after passing by, transports him into another world: the world of Miss Peregrine and the Peculiar Children. Indeed the fantastic photos and stories Jacob's grandfather told him were true.

Miss Peregrine, who is the headmistress at the orphanage, and the Peculiar Children are living in a loop – a single 24-hour period for eternity. That day is December 3, 1940 – the day they realized their orphanage was going to be destroyed during the next Nazi raid (remember: they're Peculiar). So, as Miss Peregrine recounts, they decided to take "temporal isolation" over physical destruction. Hence, the loop.

It turns out Jacob's grandfather was indeed a Peculiar Child himself who decided to leave the loop and try his luck in the real world. His power was the ability to see and fight the hidden monsters – hollows and hollowgasts – that are out to destroy the Peculiar Children. This explains, in Jacob's mind, how his grandfather was murdered. But that's just the beginning. Since Jacob can pass in and out of the loop, he must be a Peculiar Child as well because no common human can enter their world.

At this point, you can feel the "franchise fever" heating up as Jacob spends more and more time with the children and learns about their world. Jacob falls for Emma, one of brusque but lovely Peculiar Children. There's even the obligatory banquet scene. The children engage and avoid the hollows, hollowgasts and their set-up men, the wights. But then Jacob is faced with the ultimate decision: stay and help the Peculiar Children in their ongoing battles or go back to his real life forever. However, when he realizes these monsters have been a part of his real life all along, his decision becomes much simpler. He's all in.

At this point, the story devolves into a series twists and turns and future adventures that scream: ADAPT ME! And FRANCHISE, PLEASE! But what is unique is the use of period-specific photography throughout the book. Many of the Peculiar Children are shown – the floating girl and the powerful skinny kid are two. The images are black-and-white and have the look of much-handled 70-year old family photos. They add dimension and make an impact in their placement throughout the text. They always create a nice little bit of an anticipation when you know they are coming.

This book is clearly targeting the Young Adult market, possibly those who have "gone past" the Harry Potter novels. You understand right off the bat that this is a book we are not reading because of the style of the writing, but because of the story that is unfolding. Which might sound silly, but a unique writing style can make up for a bad story more readily than a good story can recover from bad writing. This book is hanging its hat solely on story, not style, which is not necessarily a criticism. It just means this book was written not for literary merit so much as it was created for film adaptation.

 

About the Author
A Juilliard-trained writer, Kevin Kizer has fought against numerous world-champion writers during his career, besting the reigning middle weight writing champion in an exhibition bout in Helsinki in 1976. He also played a crucial role on the U.S. gold-medal winning writing team during the 1984 Pan-Am games, where he came off the bench in dramatic fashion to write the winning prepositional phrase just as time expired.