Hollow City

September 3, 1940. Ten peculiar children flee an army of deadly monsters. And only one person can help them – but she’s trapped in the body of a bird. The extraordinary journey that began in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children continues as Jacob Portman and his newfound friends journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. There, they hope to find a cure for their beloved headmistress, Miss Peregrine. But in this war-torn city, hideous surprises lurk around every corner. And before Jacob can deliver the peculiar children to safety, he must make an important decision about his love for Emma Bloom. Like its predecessor, this second novel in the Peculiar Children series blends thrilling fantasy with vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience.

hollow-city

I went into Hollow City, the second book in Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series with some trepidation – second book syndrome is real, people – but my nerves were totally unwarranted. Hollow City is so freaking good.

Riggs uses the sequel to build on the peculiar world he introduced in Miss Peregrine #1, creating an atmosphere so richly imagined that to start reading it was to leave my own life altogether. There wasn’t a single occasion on picking this book up that I wasn’t instantly sucked into the drama playing out in its pages. And I am a pretty distractible person, so this was a big deal. I have talked before about how the Harry Potter books have this specific ‘feeling’ for me. There is a piece of me that I can access in the Harry Potter books that I don’t usually, even though I read a ton. Reading Hollow City was the closest I have come to getting that feeling outside of the wizarding world. It is an immersive experience.

This is in part because the novel consists largely of the peculiar children lurching from one disaster to another. Riggs doesn’t give us much in the way of breathing time before thrusting the children in the way of the next life threatening event, whether that was the Hollows, gypsies or running through London during a World War Two bombing. And, to throw another curveball their way, for the first time in years, the children are coping with all of this relatively alone. Miss Peregrine, after the attack of the Wights, is unable to revert to human form. With their matriarch and protector trapped as a bird, the children are for the first time leaderless. With no safe time loop to live in, no Ymbryne to care for them and evil forces getting ever closer, the situation is only set to get bleaker (which of course, it does).

After being initially put off by the Miss Peregrine problem (they went through so much to save her! How could Ransom Riggs do this?!?!?!), it was actually quite relieving watching the children operate without her. Characters who were somewhat side-lined (Olive and Bronwyn I LOVE YOU) in the first novel were allowed to come into their own. They’re forced into taking risks that Miss Peregrine would never have allowed them, and in doing that, their characters are finally allowed to develop. Which, after literally living the same day over and over for eighty-odd years, is a pretty big deal.

It was particularly interesting to me, toward the end of the novel, when the children are somewhat under protection again (not for long though….), how something about it felt… off. As if they are being forced back into a box in which they no longer fit. I hope that this theme is one Riggs will have time to explore further in the final book of the series.

Obviously I can’t end this review without talking about Jacob. Despite being over main character, and the voice through which we view the story, Riggs does a really good job of not making him into a special snowflake. I suppose that is an inevitable result of being one peculiar among many.

I think what makes Jacob’s introduction into peculiar-dom so un-annoying has to do with the slow release of his ability. There is nothing obviously peculiar about him. For much of the first novel he didn’t realise he was peculiar even as he was doing it. In this book he has to try and get a handle on his ability. And he has to do it while being responsible for the lives of his friends. And then there is the whole living in the shadow of his hero grandfather thing.

Oh yeah, and his parents think he is missing or even dead, and he doesn’t see himself getting back to them any time soon.

After falling into it in pursuit of answers in the first novel, it is during Hollow City that Jacob has to really choose the peculiar life. He has to decide to sacrifice everything he knew before – his parents’ sanity even – to save this world and people he has only just discovered even existed. He has to get over his grandfather’s ghost and embrace his ability as his own, rather than seeing it as an unfortunate inheritance. He has come a long way from the self-proclaimed whiny rich kid he used to be.

If you’re looking for some fantastical escapism, the Peculiar Children series is for you.

A Book Haul

This may be the first time I have had enough unread books at any one time to do a haul. I am going for it.

book-haul

In the next few weeks, I will be reading my way through…

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine #2) by Ransom Riggs

A Gathering of Shadows – V. E. Shwab

Unhooked – Lisa Maxwell

The Raven Boys – Maggie Steifvater (I am pretty sceptical about this series, but nobody will shut up about how wonderful it is, so I’m giving it a go with at least half of an open mind).

No Matter the Wreckage – Sarah Kay (amazing poet)

 

December Wrap-Up

Hey, 2016.

This week I plan to crawl from my Christmastime cave and back into the world of the blog.

Last month I reviewed:

First and Then – Emma Mills

Feelings: This ties with Emmy and Oliver as my favourite YA contemporary of the year. That’s pretty much the highest praise I can possibly give it.

Cupcakes and Kalashnikovs: 100 Years of the Best Women’s journalism – edited by Eleanor Mills and Kira Cochrane

Feelings: This is the book that made me realise I was a feminist. I love it.

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

Feelings: Everyone who wants to live the creative life should read this.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

Feelings: Surprisingly funny, heart wrenchingly difficult, totally worth it.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs

Feelings: Love, love, love, but creepy Santa haunts my nightmares.

I also read:

PS, I Still Love You – Jenny Han

Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

How to be a Parisian Wherever You Are – Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline De Maigret and Sophie Mas

And I suppose it wouldn’t be a proper December wrap up if I didn’t finish The 12 Days of Christmas…

12-days-of-christmas-blogging

What was your favourite childhood Christmas present?

Christmas of 1995, I got a dollhouse. My mum decorated it with left over wallpaper she had laying around. It’s decorated exactly like our house was when I was three. I spent hours playing pretend in that house. My mum managed to find one of the only single parent Sylvanian families I’ve ever seen to live in it. We still have it today. The house sits under the stairs. Sometimes I open it to check when I’m feeling stressed. I still like to think that the dolls living in there move around when I’m not looking.

What are you grateful for this Christmas?

My family. Obvs.

I spent a lot of time this year thinking about how much better things are than they used to be. Even times when they aren’t easier, they’re still better. However I look at it, that’s something to be pretty grateful for.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

Jacob’s life has always been pretty average. An okay student with a job in the supermarket chain his family owns, probably the most interesting stories he has to tell belong to his grandfather – tales of children with mysterious abilities. Photographs of impossible children litter his home.

But Jacob stopped believing in all that years ago. Other kids in school beat him up for telling ‘fairy stories’ and the internet taught him that photographs can be manipulated. Jacob and his grandad, Abe haven’t talked about the peculiar children in years.

When Jacob’s grandfather dies under mysterious and violent circumstances, nothing is average any more. He is haunted by images of a monster he saw at the scene of Abe’s death –a monster his therapist has convinced him couldn’t possibly exist. Looking through his deceased grandfather’s belongings, Jacob rediscovers the photographs of the peculiar children, and what appears to be a letter from their leader, Miss Peregrine. In desperate need of answers, he travels to Wales with his father to determine whether the children exist after all.

Miss Peregine.jpgI first read Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs three years ago. I leant it to a girl I lived with at the time who soon moved out under mysterious circumstances (very fitting), without returning it to me. I don’t know why it took me so long to get another copy. While my memories of the plot had mostly faded, what remained when I thought of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children was a feeling. I guess you’d call it otherworldly. I fell back into it the moment I started reading again.

One of the aspects of this book I like most is the idea of inherited sadness – the feel the weight your family history has as it settles onto your shoulders. In Jacob’s case this takes a couple of different forms – without being too spoiler-ey, he basically has to go back in time to 1945, when his grandfather was young. He bonds with the people who populated Abe’s childhood, and takes on the role he left vacant, and all the responsibilities that come with it. In the present, the book also looks at the way that our grandparents are responsible for our parents. For reasons that become apparent the further you get into the story, Abe and Jacob’s dad had a very distant relationship. Jacob’s dad did not feel loved by his father, and he’s grown up to be a very disconnected adult. He shares that he can feel his marriage to Jacob’s mother slipping away, but doesn’t have the strength or resources to do anything about it. His mind is made of ever-increasing stacks of unfinished projects – all of them abandoned as soon as the first problem arose. He loves his son, but barely knows him really. I could go into all the ways that Jacob grew up as a disconnected kid as a result, but I’ll spare you. Sadness gets handed down through generations. So does the ability to fight monsters. More on that in a minute.

What Jacob comes to realise is that his purpose – at least for now – is to finish the work his grandfather began. He decides he is going to fight that which has been plaguing his family for decades. It’s the only way he can survive. I mean this literally. The monsters that were after his grandfather are chasing him now. I also mean this somewhat figuratively. It is only by facing head on the ghosts that have haunted his family for so long that he can have a better life than the men who came before him.

In this novel, Riggs is caught up in questions about time. Miss Peregrine uses time loops in order to keep the peculiar children safe from what’s hunting them. In doing so she has stopped them for aging. They are children forever, like Peter Pan but with a parent. By protecting them she has also made them easier to control. In keeping them as children she will forever be their superior. There is a real sense throughout of how these children haven’t developed – in their relationships, concerns or anything really, despite actually being getting on for one hundred years old. I’m fascinated the see the effects of the events of the first book in the sequel, to see how the children develop in a new world where not every day is the same, where certain relationships and power structures are irrevocably changed. I’m excited to see them leave the home they’ve always lived in and face what threatens them.

What I took from this book is the idea that you can only hide from or deny a destiny for so long. Rigg’s ends the book with the impression that life is always coming for you.