Growing up Jake thought his Grandpa Portman was the most fascinating man in the world. He loved to hear his grandfather’s stories about life in the Welsh orphanage where he had been sent as a boy to escape the Nazis. Grandpa Portman mesmerized Jake with tales of his childhood friends and their peculiar gifts. One could hold fire in her hand. Another could levitate. Another was invisible. Still another had amazing strength. To add to the intrigue, there were photographs, strange and haunting photographs, of these children displaying their unusual gifts.
But as time passed and Jake grew older, he began to realize that these stories and even the photographs were too fantastic to be true. In time, Jake came to see them as merely a kind of family fairytale – that is, until the night that everything changed.
When Jake’s grandfather is attacked in the woods behind his home, the police blame wild dogs. But Jake was there, and he saw the attacker. He was no dog. He was terrifying. And he was right out of one of Grandpa Portman’s stories.
Unfortunately for Jake, no one believes him – just like no one believed Grandpa Portman. To confront the nightmares and fears that consume Jake’s life, his parents try therapy, drugs, and distractions. Eventually Jake tries to convince them to let him travel, with his father, to Wales to see if he can find out more about Grandpa Portman and the place where his strange stories originated. Reluctantly they agree, hoping it will put to rest Jake’s belief in the truth of these tales.
However, there on the island of Cairnhom, Jake finds Miss Peregrine’s orphanage, old and decaying, but teeming with information. Digging through rubble and remains of the old house, Jake begins to uncover, artifacts, photographs, and the dark secrets of Grandpa Portman’s strange and disturbing childhood and the orphans he shared it with.
Set in a quaint Welsh fishing village and in the fog-shrouded Welsh countryside, this novel, part mystery part horror story, takes us with Jake on his this quest. Who were these children his Grandfather grew up with? Were their gifts real or just fantastic stories? What happened to them? And where are they now?
As intriguing as this story is, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children might not be the book for everyone. I’ll admit that I half hoped the story would turn out to be a mystery of the ordinary variety. But no. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is definitely an extraordinary story.
However for adults and teens who enjoy the strange and the scary, this book is a nice departure from the witches, vampires, ghosts, and werewolves that we see in so many YA novels. The children, although very peculiar, are just children, some darker and creepier than others, but they are not supernatural nor other-worldly. There are monsters in this story, but they former Peculiars whose own attempts at immortality caused their mutation.
Another refreshing thing about this book was the lack of steamy romance. There is an emerging romance between Jake and one of the teenage orphans (yep, they’re still there), but this is not necessarily central to the plot. Unlike most YA fantasy novels where the sexually-charged relationship between some misfit human and some ultra cool vampire, ghost, or witch is the storyline, in this book the romance is more of a subplot.
Like so many YA novels today, this one is the first in a series. So, it looks like fans will have to read the next novel, The Hollow City, to see if Jake’s romance is taken to the next level. In fact, we’ll have to read on because at the end of the Miss Peregrine Jake’s adventure is really just beginning.
Yes, there are some swear words in this book and some crass expressions.
Yes. Jake and the other orphans must battle the monsters who threaten their safely. The last 40 pages or so involve a pretty intense battle between the opposing sides.
There is a kissing scene that starts to get mildly heated and at one point Jake refers to himself as a “horny teenager.” There are also references to “making out.”
Not really. As I said, neither the peculiar children nor the monsters they fight are really other-worldly. But the monsters are scary and some of the children are downright disturbing.
To give you some idea of the type of book this is, Tim Burton will be directing the movie slated to come out in the Summer of 2015. Check out this article and creepy book trailer.
To add to the eerie factor, this book is filled with photographs of the Peculiar Children – holding fire, levitating, swarmed by bees, etc. The creepy thing is that all the photos in the book are actual photos found in various flea markets, antique shops, and private collections. Chilling.
Due to language and crass expressions some parents might feel this book is not suitable for tweens and younger teens.
The cover of Eleanor and Park has this review from New York Times bestselling author Gayle Forman:
This sexy, tender romance thrums with punk rock and true love. Readers will swoon.
Eleanor and Park, set in the 80’s, is the story of two misfit teenagers who share and preference for punk rock and comic books and who fall madly, deeply, and I will admit, tenderly in love. They meet on the school bus. When every other kid on the bus treats Eleanor, a large redhead with a flamboyant style, cruelly, Park begrudgingly offers to let her sit with him. Day after day he tolerates her. Day after day she endures heartless classmates and an almost unimaginably abusive home life. But when Eleanor and Park discover their shared interest in comic books and alternative music, an unlikely friendship slowly blossoms. That friendship eventually turns into love.
Park falls in love with Eleanor for all the right reasons. She is funny, smart, and easy to talk to. Yet, in spite of his love for her, he struggles a little with embarrassment over her misfit ways. Eleanor’s love for Park seems equally un-shallow, but after years of abuse and neglect, she struggles to let herself get close to Park. And while attraction for each other definitely grows out of their friendship and plays a part in their story, Eleanor and Park seem to be really in love – not just in “He’s so cute/ she’s so hot.” teenage love. I like that about this book.
I also was struck by the story of Eleanor’s tragic home life. I felt like this book gave me a deeper insight into what life is like for some kids. For that reason alone, I’m glad I read it. I have renewed empathy for some of my students.
Rowell does a masterful job of describing what it is like to be young and in love. But there is an intensity to Eleanor and Park’s love that, as a parent, I find unsettling. I know that in our culture many people see young love as a right of passage. We have glorified high school romance to the point that most young girls (and guys) feel like their high school years aren’t complete until they find that one special (for now) someone. This is just the kind of books that feeds into that way of thinking.
I think in her review of this book, Gayle Forman is spot on. This book is well-written, full of beautiful and heartbreaking writing. I guess the questions is whether or not you want your teen or preteen daughter to swoon over a sexy, tender, punk rock love story. For mine, I’m going to go with no. There’s a lot of great literature out there that does not perpetuate the myth that young love is what teenage life is all about. I think I’ll encourage my kids in that direction.
Despite her horrible home life, most of the abuse that Eleanor endures is verbal abuse and neglect. Her stepfather’s violence is mostly hinted at.
YES! Almost all of Rowell’s character’s have filthy mouths and no respect for the Lord’s name. That alone might disqualify this book for a lot of families.
Park and Eleanor have a couple of heavy make out sessions, but remarkably they don’t go all the way. However, this is due more to a lack of opportunity than a moral compass. There is also language that is extremely vulgar and sexual in nature.
QUOTES FROM THE BOOK
“Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.”
“I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together,..”
“Eleanor was right: She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”
“You think that holding someone hard will bring them closer. You think that you can hold them so hard that you’ll still feel them, embossed on you, when you pull away…Every time Eleanor pulled away from Park, she felt the gasping loss of him.”
“Or maybe he thought now, he just didn’t recognize all those other girls. The way a computer drive will spit out a disk if it doesn’t recognize the formatting…When he touched Eleanor’s hand, he recognized her. He knew.”
“They talked about the White Album on the way to school, but just as an excuse to stare at each other’s mouths.”
“He’d thought he was over caring about what people thought of him. He’d thought that loving Eleanor proved that. But he kept finding new pockets of shallow inside himself. He kept finding new ways to betray her.”
“He felt himself smile. He felt like something warm spilled in his heart.”