26 February 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)

One-word review of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: disappointment. Two-word review: wasted potential. Emoticon review: :\

Shall I articulate a bit more? First, credit where it's due: Riggs has collected a fascinating array of old trick photographs--levitating girls, invisible boys. Black & white adds a creep factor, of course, and the how'd-they-do-that-before-Photoshop puzzlement ups the nagging voice in the back of your head wondering if their depictions are real. But the thousands of words accompanying the photos don't live up to their worth as inspiration. His choice to use them not as illustration but as actual artifacts in the story leads to some really awkward "and I remembered this picture I saw" moments in the prose.

Which prose is woefully serviceable, though the prologue is attention-getting: sixteen-year-old Jacob Portman has grown up with his Polish-refugee grandfather's stories about an idyllic island off the coast of Wales where he lived as a child, and the monsters who threatened it, presenting the photos as evidence of his classmates' outré abilities. Jacob believes and disbelieves in turn--and then one day, he gets a frantic phone call from Grandpa Portman, who's convinced that his enemies have finally tracked him down. When Jacob arrives to comfort the supposedly demented old man, he finds him eviscerated . . . and then he sees the creature of his ancestor's nightmares in the flesh.

Promising, yes. But it goes downhill from there. Some of the blame is to be placed on false advertising: he book was marketed as young-adult or even an adult crossover, when it would have worked much better as middle-grade (take out the lackluster love story and the needless repetitions of the word "shit," cut it by at least 100 pages), and further portrayed as a horror tale, when it stops being scary after the prologue (except, perhaps, to an 8-10-year-old) and eventually becomes derivative* sci-fi fantasy, with backstory imparted in unforgivably expository HERE IS WHAT IS HAPPENING monologues. Then it has the gall to end on a to-be-continued!!

Maybe I should revise that emoticon. Let's give it a >:( for wasting my time.

*SPOILER: love the X-Men? Then you'll be extra irritated by the titular bunch of knock-offs!

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