Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Peculiar traits often skip a generation, or ten. Peculiar children are not always, or even usually, born to peculiar parents, and peculiar parents do do always, or even usually, bear peculiar children. Can you imagine, in a world so afraid of otherness, why this would be a danger to all peculiarkind?
Oh. My. Gosh. I started Miss Peregrine’s thinking (for some reason) it was magical realism–not one of my favorite genres but one that seems a staple of literary fiction. The jacket blurb stated the novel was “an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience … a spine-tingling fantasy … [for] anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.” Sounds a bit “Tiger’s Wife”-y, no? But what I got was Time Traveler’s Wife meets Harry Potter–and I was over the moon!
Jacob Portman is an ordinary sixteen-year-old with all the age’s inglorious traits: he is socially awkward and often lonely; his parents don’t understand him; he hates both school and his job. The one glorious constant in life, though, has always been his grandfather Abe Portman. Grandpa, who spent time in an orphanage after escaping the Nazis in Poland, regaled young Jacob with stories of fellow orphans: a girl who could fly, an invisible boy, and a boy who had bees living in him. And if it all sounded a bit outlandish, out would come a box of vintage, sepia-toned photographs. Sure enough, there were the (obviously staged, trick) photographs to prove it. And then there were the stories of invisible monsters whose tentacled tongues could snatch you up and crush you in their powerful jaws and Grandpa’s love of weaponry of all kinds and his many hunting trips.
But long after Jacob dismissed Grandpa’s tales as “fairy stories” he receives a panicked call at work: “They’re coming for me, understand? I don’t know how they found me after all these years, but they did. What am I supposed to fight them with, the goddamned butter knife?” In a rush, Jacob leaves to ease his senile grandfather’s worries–and finds himself thrown into a world he didn’t even know existed.
Grandpa’s dying words lead Jacob to a letter and a loop on the other side of an old man’s grave–September third, 1940. Cryptic, to be sure. But once Jacob unravels the clues he finds himself on a remote island off the coast of Wales, standing in front of the very real Miss Peregrine, surrounded by the peculiar children in her charge. Peculiar children–misunderstood, abandoned, and always suspect because of their odd powers–find refuge with a worldwide network of ymbrunes who keep them safe in time loops covering centuries. But are they really safe? For as Miss Peregrine tells Jacob, “…we peculiars are no less mortal than common folk. Time loops merely delay the inevitable, and the price we pay for using them is hefty–an irrevocable divorce from the ongoing present. As you know, long-term loop dwellers can but dip their toes into the present lest they wither and die. This has been the arrangement since time immemorial.”
So Jacob learns the truth about his grandfather–and himself–and must decide whether or not he will be the same man Abe was when those monsters do finally come. Again. Miss Peregrine’s is a novel rich with metaphor and symbol. The biblical Jacob wrestled with angels; this Jacob, monsters. His psychologist’s name is Dr.Golem Golan. The monsters are the Nazis–or aren’t they? I have no idea whether or not the novel is labeled as Young Adult fiction and it matters not. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a delight for any reader–peculiar or not.