“Then, a few years later, when I was fifteen, an extraordinary and terrible thing happened, and there was only Before and After.” The debut YA novel by Ransom Riggs, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” is about Jacob searching for clues about his grandfather’s tragic and aberrant death on a Welsh Island where is grandfather lived as a boy after escaping Poland during the Second World War. Going on nothing but the stories his grandfather told him as a child and “peculiar” photo’s, Jacob sets out on a journey to discover the truth. Were the stories his grandfather told him about monsters and the children in the photo’s real? Or were they the ramblings of an aging man?
Jacob, our protagonist, is a young teen awkwardly making his way through his teenage years, when one day at work he receives a frantic phone call from his grandfather Abe. “They’re coming for me, understand? I don’t know how they found me after all these years, but they did.” Jacob, the only family member that receives his grandfather’s prophetic phone calls, leaves his menial job to check in on his grandfather. Upon arriving, he finds his grandfather’s home is disarray and later finds his grandfather on the brink of death, covered in blood. Looking up, Jacob realizes it was no animal attack, as standing in front of him was the nightmarish creature that Jacob believed was a character from one of Abe’s fairytale stories. No one believes Jacob’s story and is led to believe he is crazy. Much to the chagrin of his parents, his doctor suggests a trip to Abe’s childhood home to help Jacob piece together his grandfather’s past in hopes it will help him realize an animal killed his grandfather, not a monster. What Jacob finds is more than peculiar.
Rigg’s uses a collection of vintage photos to succor the story and tone of the book which add a marvelous touch to the story. It is one thing to envision the descriptions in your head, but to see them in black and white only helps cement the story in your mind forever. He weaves a gothic quest for truth with the splendor of the photos to create a haunting tapestry of the human condition, family bonds, and the always powerful good versus evil. A 5 out 5 for this book, a truly unforgettable story!