Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine'sOn The Cover: A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

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.

Published: 2011

Why I Chose It: I have been intrigued by this book ever since I saw it on a friend’s reading list. What hooked me was the line from the book blurb: “They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason.”

The Review:

It was the history aspect of this book that definitely drew me in. I love old ruins, and as an abandoned orphanage, the setting for this book was awesome. I ate up every little detail about the house, and the atmosphere that Riggs creates when Jacob first enters the house is extraordinary. The house has so many artifacts in it, and I absolutely loved the attention that Riggs gives to the smallest details, and how he really creates an experience as Jacob explores the rooms. I also really appreciate Jacob as a character because he is really curious, and he’s driven to discover the story of the house and its occupants.

An interesting part of this book for me was the pictures that are included throughout the novel. All of these are real photographs that the author gathered, and I love that Riggs creates characters directly linked to each picture. The pictures were so interesting to look at, and really added something a little different to the story. I also personally find them slightly creepy, and I enjoyed that they raised the creep factor in the book.

Miss P

The one thing I can say about this book is that it is a solid story. There was always something happening, and it remained interesting from beginning to end. I think Riggs took all the right elements and put them in the right order and came out with a good story. What held me back from loving this book is that nothing really wowed me about it. It was all familiar territory, all elements I’ve heard before. So while there was nothing really wrong with it, I can’t say I particularly liked it. It is also worth pointing out that if the pictures were not part of this book, I would have liked it less.

There are some good elements to this story. Old abandoned haunted houses are always a good setting, and tying in such a colourful history keeps the book interesting. If you’re a fan of old photographs, or of paranormal stories entwined with a local history, then you might like this one.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Miss Peregrine's Portuguese Cover

Quotations:

“And I really did believe him – for a few years, at least – though mostly because I wanted to, like other kids my age wanted to believe in Santa Claus. We cling to our fairy tales until the price for believing them becomes too high, which for me was the day in second grade when Robbie Jensen pantsed me at lunch in front of a table of girls and announced that I believed in fairies.” (OverDrive, 2011)

“It was my grandfather’s island. Looming and bleak, folded in mist, guarded by a million screeching birds, it looked like some ancient fortress constructed by giants. As I gazed up at its sheer cliffs, tops disappearing in a reef of ghostly clouds, the idea that this was a magical place didn’t seem so ridiculous.” (OverDrive, 2011)

“I went from room to room, examining their contents like an archaeologist. There were wooden toys moldering in a box; crayons on a windowsill, their colors dulled by the light of ten thousand afternoons; a dollhouse with dolls inside, lifers in an ornate prison. In a modest library, the creep of moisture had bowed the shelves into crooked smiles. I ran my finger along the balding spines, as if considering pulling one out to read. There were classics like Peter Pan and The Secret Garden, histories written by authors forgotten by history, textbooks of Latin and Greek. In the corner were corralled a few old desks. This had been their classroom, I realized, and Miss Peregrine, their teacher.” (OverDrive, 2011)

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Mind Games – Kiersten White

Mind GamesFrom The Cover: Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future.

Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways… or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.

In a stunning departure from her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy, Kiersten White delivers a slick, edgy, heart-stoppingly intense psychological thriller about two sisters determined to protect each other—no matter the cost.

Published: 2013

Why I Chose It: I was really interested by the idea of a school for girls with powers, and the story of these two sisters. Sounds very X-Men, yes?

The Review:

This story follows two sisters with unique powers: Anne and Fia. Annie can see the future, and Fia has perfect instincts – she simply knows when she has to do something, or go somewhere, and things work out for her. The representation of their powers is the part I liked the most in this book. Their powers are not easy to use, so seeing the sisters struggle to understand their own abilities made them seem like more genuine special abilities.

The language of this book is simple, and perhaps a little juvenile. The first few chapters I was a little put off by how immature Fia seemed, until the action distracted me and I got caught up in the plot. Yet White has some unique ways of representing emotions and inner thoughts that I really appreciated, and it read like genuine thoughts – a little scattered, a little rushed – but really helped me to understand the characters more.

On the surface the plot is not that complicated. There are a few minor twists that I found enjoyable, but there was definitely nothing surprising in this book. Much of the storyline is entwined in flashbacks, so if you set events chronologically you realize there isn’t actually much happening. Yet when I stop to think about it, some of the ideas are quite good. The decisions made by the sisters show that they do know how to play the “mind games” just like all the adult players do – but I don’t think these decisions are represented well in the book. This book is such a fast read, so it’s easy to miss the mental manipulations that occur behind the scenes, because they’re not really in the book. I sat and reflected on a lot of story points and I like how all the dots connect, but again, they’re not really shown in the main story line.

This book is a quick read with a nice dual perspective from the two sisters. I think this book would be a great pick for a younger reader (pre to early teens) who are interested in the paranormal and special powers. It would also be a great read to introduce a reader to the genre. While the concepts in the story are sound, I don’t think the delivery is complex or strong enough for an older reader.

Rating: 3 / 5

Characters: 4 / 5
Special Powers: 5 / 5

Story Complexity: 2 / 5
Depth and Maturity: 2 / 5

Quotations:

 “I look up to see Ms. Robertson smiling at me, and this time the smile isn’t a lie. It’s a challenge. Like she knows what I’m planning.
But she can’t know.
She knows. It’s a physical reaction in me, a certain quivering, empty feeling in my stomach, that tug of my gut. I know she knows.” [Fia] p 47

“I’d been hoping she’d adapt, that whatever weird things were going on with her, whatever strange dynamic she had here would change. I swallow hard. I am a terrible person. I know she’s not happy. She hasn’t been happy in months. Years. But I kept waiting and hoping. Not because I thought she’d change. Because I needed her to be happy so I could keep being happy here.” [Annie] p 105

“All the girls are found through rumor or odd news articles, occasionally through visions, then approached the same way I was – a scholarship, a prestigious school, specially tailored instruction for specially gifted girls. Then gradually the girls figure it out, learn they aren’t alone, that they’re surrounded by others who have the same gifts (or curses, depending on how you view it), given instruction and help and a home.” [Annie] p 181