April 10, 2014

a book post

I have this thing about bestselling books. I don't like them. Obviously, that's a generalization, and I'm sure there are bestsellers that are also good books, but in general, for the most part, whenever I read bestsellers I'm horribly disappointed. My theory is that because a book has to appeal to a wide audience in order to become a bestseller, they're written to the masses, including those whose literary tastes aren't super amazing.

Anyway, so. Recently I finished reading Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (a bestseller), and I wanted to post a review—or, if not a review then at least some of my thoughts on it. Warning now for a few spoilers—mostly general things, and not about how the ending turned out or anything.

Well. I did like the book. It's got these amazing, odd, eerie vintage photographs throughout, and actually, I think they kind of make the story. You can read the story without the photos and it'll still make sense, but the photographs are captivating. I'm really glad they're in there. At times they're woven in a little awkwardly—whenever they appear, the story mentions a photograph too, and some of the pictures, I just can't imagine someone wanting to take a picture of that situation. I mean, obviously someone did, but if you think of the people in the story taking pictures like that of their own friends and family, it kind of casts them in a questionable light, ethically speaking. But it was just a couple of them that I was iffy on. Like I said, I am glad the photos are there, in general.

The writing style was so-so; not amazing, and not horrible. If I were to rate the prose in terms of bestsellers, on a scale from The Hunger Games to The Time Traveller's Wife, I'd say Miss Peregrine's falls a little short of the latter. At times, it comes off a little explain-y, but with a book like this, with so many fantastical elements, there's a lot to explain, so I'm willing to forgive that. The biggest minus, in my opinion, was that some things that should have been subtle were not terribly subtle. For example (SPOILER ALERT!), I guessed that the psychiatrist was evil shortly after he was introduced, at the beginning of the book. For things like that, I prefer to be really shocked when they come up later in the book.

Other than that, I don't have much to say about the writing itself. And I was fine with the characterization. Mainly I want to talk about the premise of the story.

I was really intrigued by the idea behind the novel: what if all these strange old photographs were not just manipulations but real photos? What if children who could float and lift boulders and turn invisible were actually real? It was interesting to see the author's take on this question. And I think his ideas were really interesting. I liked how the loops were (other than the peculiar children) the basis for the story and all the elements: because of the loops, wights and hollowgast were created, and ymbrynes were targeted, etc. etc. All the elements flowed logically from the concept of time loops.

However, at times the ideas introduced in the book seemed a bit far-fetched. I mean, it's common for ideas in books to be far-fetched, but while you're reading, they shouldn't seem that way, if that makes sense. But something about the way it was written, or explained, wasn't enough to make the story real. Maybe it was just that all these ideas were given in such a short space of time. Maybe it was that this is the author's debut novel, and he hasn't quite got a handle on his craft yet. Whatever the case, I felt it was difficult at times to believe what was happening, even in the context of a young-adult fantasy novel. A lot of things happened that were just way too convenient. A lot of issues that were brought up by the fantastical elements were not sufficiently resolved. For example, for much of the book, Jacob is struggling with his desire to stay with the peculiar children, because he knows he'll have to abandon his family if he does. Then at the end, suddenly his parents are no match for the peculiars, and it's really easy for him to decide which path to take. All he has to do is go tell his dad what he's discovered and then his parents will be fine without him. And there were a lot of other things, difficulties that suddenly, conveniently became super easy and solvable when the timing was right in the plot. The struggle suddenly disappears.

That said, I enjoyed the book overall. The problem with things becoming too convenient was my biggest issue, and I think the intriguing aspects outweigh that. I've put the sequel, Hollow City down on my list to read in the future. Compared to other authors' debut novels, I think this is a fairly good effort, and I'm interested to follow this author and see how he grows. I have to say that, as far as bestsellers go, this is one book that I actually think deserves its spot on the bestseller list.

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