The 1st entry in a new series, spotlighting the University of Kent students’ favourite books of the 2010s.
Image courtesy of Hollywood Reporter
Growing up I had never particularly enjoyed traditional fairytales or love stories, finding them stereotyped, cheesy and somewhat boring. Instead, I was always more interested in gritty thrillers or psychologically disturbing novels. I started the decade as a 10-year-old and have since made my way through the education system to study English and American Literature at University. In doing so, it would be an understatement to say that I have read more than my fair share of books over the last 10 years. However, there has always been one book series that has remained one of my favourites since the moment I started reading it.
Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was introduced to me when I was 13 and I have to be honest, I was somewhat sceptical when I saw that it contained pictures and was about ‘children with extraordinary powers’. Snobbishly, I assumed that I was bought it because 13-year-olds should still love picture books about superheroes, right?
However, I was entirely unaware of the plethora of complex topics and moral questions that I was going to be faced with when reading this novel. The book follows Jacob, a teenager who is told that his recently deceased grandfather had powers which deemed him a ‘Peculiar’. Jacob is introduced to his grandfather’s old friends who also happen to be Peculiar children, such as a girl who can release fire from her hands and an invisible boy.
The storyline incorporates death, kidnap, murder, love and a lot of birds. It was intense and, at times, overwhelming for a 13-year-old to get to grips with. However, I finished the entire book within 2 days and re-read it several times afterwards. Dispersed between the pages of the book are real photographs of Peculiar children throughout history, many of which match the descriptions of the children in the novel. These photos, for me, brought the story to life and created a whole other world in my head. I remember creating my own drawings of myself as a Peculiar, and all my friends too (I had gills and could breathe underwater).
However, the reason this is my favourite book of the decade is because of the underlying theme of grief and bereavement. Only a few years before this book was released, my father sadly passed away and I found myself entering my teenage years, trying to navigate my life without him. I have always believed that reading books is nourishing for the soul, however, I never understood the impact of literature until I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I became Jacob. I became a Peculiar child, searching for an answer that I knew I was never going to get. I became part of a group, a family, even if it was just whilst I had the book open on my lap.
It is a horribly dark tale for a teenager to read, and it has been made all the graphic by the recent film that was released which told the story. However, it enabled me to become part of something much bigger than myself. Grief is confusing, unforgiving and relentless. However, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children made it all the more bearable for me and 10 years later I am entering a new decade as an adult, all the better for having read this wonderful book.