Strange Brew

It's already been well-established that magical realism is one of my favorite genres, so I've been itching to get my hands on Ransom Riggs' best-selling 2011 novel Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Unfortunately, a lot of other people were itching for it too, and it's only recently that I was able to snag a copy from the library. The basic storyline is not an unfamiliar one; it's the same lost-child-in-a-dangerous-unfamiliar-world trope that people have been enjoying since Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The protagonist of this one is Jacob, a sixteen-year-old who was raised on fantastical stories about children with amazing abilities from his grandfather. The stories also involved ravenous monsters, and though Jacob grows to be a skeptical and dismissive teenager, he's literally forced to face his demons when he discovers his grandfather killed by what appears to be a monster from the stories of his youth. Jacob and his father travel to Wales, where Jacob discovers that what he assumed are tall tales aren't so tall after all.

Just that alone would probably be enough to grab my interest, but Riggs takes it one ingenious step further. He compiled a bunch of strange found-photographs and incorporated them into the story itself. The mysterious images pull the reader that much deeper into the narrative, and turn what would have been a mildly intriguing book into a fascinating one. My only real complaint is with the cliffhanger ending, which I feel artists in every medium are increasingly over-relying upon these days. That's pretty minor, though. Overall, the writing is strong, and the photographs serve as a welcome reminder that no matter how wild the fairy tales we concoct for our children are, real life can be far more enigmatic.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: B


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