So the Internet has been telling me to read this for a while. "It's awesome!", everyone says. "The best thing since The Fault in Our Stars!"
Yeah. Not so much.
Sixteen-year-old Jacob Portman goes on a trip to a remote island off the coast of Wales to uncover some family history - his grandfather's tales spoke of an orphanage of sorts, a safe haven for children displaced by war where magic happened and stories came true. Having arrived on the island, however, Jake finds that all is not as it seems, and that the old house in the woods may yet be inhabited.
Dun dun DUN, right?
And, indeed, there's an amazingly atmospheric opening which reminded me somewhat of Night Film and House of Leaves, a thing of suggestion and half-formed fears: is there something in the old creepy house or isn't there? What was that thing Jake saw in the woods the night his grandfather died? This is helped along nicely by the black-and-white photographs included along with the text, photos of children levitating and Evil Santa Clauses and chain-smoking shadows (all authentic, by the way). I spent the first couple of chapters feeling very sure that I would like Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children very much.
And then...well, without spoilers, something happens that completely kills that atmosphere of mystery, and the novel quickly becomes a rather run-of-the-mill YA fantasy, complete with creepy insta-love and indistinguishable dialogue. Surely the peculiar children, who haven't really left the house since 1945, should speak a little differently to Jake, a contemporary American kid who thinks a Welsh accent is like another language? Also, Emma? She's seventy-five years old and also Jake's grandfather's ex. Who thought that would be a good relationship?
There were a couple of things I enjoyed: the fact that the peculiar children's struggle against the hollowgasts was set beside the struggles of the Second World War; the character-revelations that tie everything up neatly while still leaving wriggle room for a sequel; the shooting scene with its excellent description of Jake's emotions. But I'm not sure I'll be reading Hollow City, the sequel, any time soon.