When Jacob is a child, his grandfather tells him wonderful stories of Miss Peregrine's island home where he had spent his childhood during the 1940s, with the levitating girl and the boy with bees in his stomach and the girl who could lift anything. It was a place safe from the monsters that his grandfather later fought and vanquished.
Jacob grows up and the stories become just that--stories--until Jacob's grandfather is violently murdered by a frightening creature that only Jacob can see.
Jacob's search for real answers draws him to the island where Miss Peregrine's home lies in ruins. But peculiar things await Jacob on the island, things that force him to realize that he and his grandfather are more alike than he realized--and that the monsters of his nightmares are real.
"You've got to try this book!" My friend insisted. "Really. You'll like it."
So I tried it--and devoured it in two days. The stage-setting was a little slow for me, but once the story took off, I was swept along with it. The vintage photographs are as peculiar as the tale itself, and, in the words of some people who looked over my shoulder while I was reading, "creepy." The story, at times, has an almost gothic feel to it, which I really enjoyed: crumbling ruins, a misty island, invisible nightmare creatures, supernatural abilities, old photographs... I will definitely be reading the rest of the series.
What Would Have Been Better
Like I said, the introductory stage-setting could have been accelerated a bit. Several characters are introduced who have very limited roles and whom we never see again once the action starts. Personally, I would have liked less swearing, too.
There is some swearing, including half-a-dozen uses of "G--d---."
There is no sex, but Jacob begins to have romantic feelings toward a young lady and they share a kiss or two.
People are shot, gutted, ripped apart, and killed in various ways. One character's peculiarity involves using animal hearts, and one scene involves "resurrecting" a murdered man. The monsters are pretty creepy and hideous.
What I Enjoyed
I'd say that the writing quality is better than the quality of most of the teen/young adult books I've read recently. Mr. Riggs' vocabulary is intelligent, his descriptions vivid, his dialogue witty, and his character development quite good. Jacob's development from wimpy kid to hero felt especially believable to me. I was fascinated by the peculiar children and their abilities, also the explanation of the time loops and the evolution of the Hollows.
Furthermore, the vintage photographs added a whole new dimension to the story, and helped to create the atmosphere of the story. As vivid as the story was, it felt "black-and-white" to me, sort of film noire, which gave it the necessary mingling of emotion and horror.
I recognized them somehow, thought I didn't know where from. They seemed like faces from a half-remembered dream. Where had I seen them before--and how did they know my grandfather's name?