A young boy finds that rather than being like his mundane and commonplace family, he is really one of the magical people, many of whom live in a sort of school for special children where they are free to practice their special magical talents. The world is divided between the commoners and the magically gifted, and the magical people are further divided into two groups: the good ones and the evil ones who, in an attempt to gain power, are about to destroy the world as we know it. Could it be Harry Potter?
OR: Monstrous creatures live among us, in disguise, and these creatures feed on human blood and organs. Only other paranormal beings with mystical powers can find and destroy these evil flesh-eating monsters, who are characterized by their seeming harmlessness and a minor physical peculiarity. Is it Twilight?
OR: A young man learns from his elderly mentor about the evil in the world and the ways of combating that evil. However, the young disciple doesn't really understand his gifting or his mission until the death of the Teacher forces him to confront evil himself with a little help from a secret society of similarly gifted and called young people. Is it Star Wars?
OR: A group of variously gifted mutants are gathered together for their own protection in a safe haven where they can learn to use their powers safely and wisely. Each of these protected young people has an extra special power which normal humans lack. These special superhumans live together as a family with an especially wise leader or teacher at the head of their school. This leader searches the world for other mutants who need to join this happy band of superheroes. Is it X-Men?
I'm not saying that Ransom Riggs's new YA novel, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, is simply and only a pastiche of the most popular plots and characters in recent popular literature and film. But the echoes are very much there. The genre that this novel fits into, called "dark fantasy" or simply "horror," will make it problematic for many Christians who are looking for something more hopeful and less nightmarish. However, young adults may be drawn to this kind of literature in order to explore, in a safe way, their own darkness and the sin that fills this world.
The photographs are what distinguish the book from others of a similar nature. Riggs has gathered and interspersed throughout the book dozens of vintage found photographs that illustrate and illuminate his story. He says of the photos in an afterword that "with the exception of a few that have undergone minimal postprocessing, they are unaltered. They were lent from the personal archives of ten collectors." The strength of this horror novel is the way the story is built around the photographs in a very convincing and, well, horrifying way.
The weaknesses of the book are several. The pace bogs down in the middle to the point that I nearly lost interest, but it does pick up again in the last third of the novel. Unfortunately, that acceleration of pace depends on lots of blood and butchery and drooling and viscera. Sprinkled throughout with a light dusting of crude language, presumably to make the teenage protagonist believable, this novel has just enough solid story to make me recommend it to some fans of the genre who can live with the occasional coarseness and the copious amount of entrails in the final section. I would not recommend it for children or young teens despite the title and the age of the protagonist (fifteen).
I always compare horror stories in my mind, not to any of the popular fictions alluded to in the introduction to this review, nor to Stephen King or other popular modern writers of the genre, but to the master, Edgar Allan Poe. Poe manages to frighten and horrify without all the extraneous gore. A well-placed heart, still beating, or a sharp-edged pendulum knelling the approach of doom, are sufficient for Poe to create a sense of terror and even of wonder at the intricacy of the human mind. Would that more writers would take Poe for a model when attempting this kind of a story.
Articles on the BreakPoint website are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Chuck Colson or BreakPoint. Outside links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply endorsement of their content.
Note: A link on this page does not constitute an endorsement from BreakPoint. It simply means that we thought that the linked news item or opinion piece would be of interest to Christian parents of teens and preteens.