Ransom Riggs has been in the ether for six years. To celebrate the sixth anniversary, Quirk Books, the publisher of this series, is hosting a re-read of all three books. Or in my case, read them for the first time. I've owned all three books for a while now and they've just been collecting dust. This read-a-thon was just the motivation I needed.
I did have some trepidation about reading this book. This is a much beloved series, and I worried I wouldn't like it. But I worried for nothing. The book started a little slow for me, but with each chapter I was thoroughly wrapped up in the story.
The death of Jacob Portman's beloved grandfather, Abraham, sends the teenager into a bit of a tailspin. Over the years, the elder Portman filled his grandson's head with fanciful stories of a mysterious island. This island was home to a group of special or peculiar children, including Abraham at one time. Abe's old photos of these children are almost too good to be true. A girl floating in mid-air. A young contortionist. Twins wearing weird costumes. Are these photos fake? Or are they from real life? It's hard for Jacob to decipher. Jacob always thought his grandfather's stories were just stories. The ravings of an eccentric man. But Abe's mysterious death throws everything into doubt. Jacob is certain an animal, a monster killed his grandfather. But no one believes Jacob. Abe had been warning Jacob for a long time that monsters were coming. Monsters were coming for the family. What if the warnings were all true?
It's hard for Jacob to make his parents believe in anything. They're so convinced Jacob is on the same path to stark raving mad just like his grandfather, his parents send him to a shrink. But Jacob, like a lot of teenagers, is rather resourceful. He tells the doctor what he wants to hear, all while maintaining a rather dry sense of humor. Jacob manages to convince his parents and his doctor that the only way for him to truly get better is to trace his grandfather's roots. He needs to go that mystery island to truly heal. But of course, what Jacob really wants to know is if the home for peculiar children is real? Are any of the residents still alive? Who is the woman, aka Miss Peregrine, in grandfather's letters?
Jacob and his dad travel to the small island of Cairnholm. For dad, it's a chance to work on his bird book -- which might never get published (but don't tell him that). For Jacob, it's a chance to explore the island, find grandfather's childhood home, and find Miss Peregrine. Jacob finds more than he bargained for. Finding the source of his obsession comes at a cost. His life and the lives of others are put at risk. Was it all worth it?
I know this book is often labelled as fantasy, but it felt like a mystery to me. The creepy photos throughout add to the mystery. They look so real, there has to be some truth to them. I found myself routing for Jacob. Routing for the new friendships his forges with the children. Jacob has the right amount of naivete, confidence, humor, and strength to carry the story. He believes in his grandfather. He believes in the children and Miss Peregrine. If you can't tell, this is all to say.....that I'm ready for book #2!!