Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a YA crossover hit by Ransom Riggs, was released in 2011 to glowing praise from no less than The Fault in Our Stars author John Green. The novel boasted an innovative twist on a timeworn literary trope which C. S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, and J. K. Rowling have all used skillfully: a seemingly ill-fated young hero meets destiny and discovers a marvelous hidden world. With Miss Peregrine’s, Riggs added found photography to this fantasy-mystery-adventure alchemy, telling his story through vintage (often doctored) images as well as words. So does its followup, Hollow City, live up to its predecessor’s promise? I say yes: three pages in, and I was hooked. Here’s why:
Elevated literary flourishes
(SPOILER ALERT for those who haven’t read book one.) Hollow City picks up right where Miss Peregrine’s ends, with Jacob Portman, Emma Bloom, and the rest of the peculiar children rowing away from the Welsh island and the time loop that sheltered them for so long. Describing the scene and the children’s mixed feelings of loss, gratitude, fear, and excitement, Riggs spins an elegant metaphor about interment, mystery, and the waxing tide that lands just right, in that space between uncertainty and reflection. In Hollow City, Riggs also heightens the sophistication of his language, throwing in a word like “bucolic” from time to time, but without pushing the vocabulary to a YA–inappropriate level.
A wider window into Jacob’s interior life
A lot more happens in book two, in just about every category: plot, character development, revelations about the peculiar magical universe Riggs has created, and so on. This series, like Rowling’s, appears to be one that matures with its audience, meaning that each book will (probably) exceed its predecessor in literary complexity, plunging more deeply into its characters emotions and psychology and adding layers of world-building. What I liked most about Hollow City was learning more about who 16-year-old Jacob really is, beyond being a suburban kid with some latent courage and decent self-preservation instincts. In Hollow City, he deals with his feelings for Emma and the consequences of leaving his world behind. We also get to know the supporting characters, particularly Hugh, Horace, Enoch, and Bronwyn, and a few new additions, in more colorful detail.
Thrills ‘n’ chills
I was about a third of the way into Hollow City when I had a quite serious, somewhat plot-spoiling conversation about the book with a bright, 11-year-old literary enthusiast and her dad, who, in the midst of his daughter’s enthusiastic exclamations of “and then…and then” brought up how scary the novel had been at points. As an adult and an avid consumer of horror fiction and films, I dismissed Isabella’s wide-eyed pause and subtle nod. But too soon! As it turned out, there were a number of scenes that were fraught with enough tension and danger to speed my heart rate.
Promises and cliffhangers
The author made several promises to his readers after Miss Peregrine’s: that he’d continue to use photographs to add extra dimension to his story, that he’d delve further into peculiardom, and that Jake might have to deal, at least a bit, with what the heck his life had become. Riggs has delivered on all accounts. In Hollow City, he abandons his inclusion of photographs as photographs (e.g. the snapshots of the peculiar children and Jacob’s grandfather), and uses images more generally to illustrate his text, where they serve like pushpins in his strange, fictional-found-image–inspired narrative. Looking onward to book three and beyond, I’m most excited to learn more about “loop theory,” as well as the rich history of the peculiar world, of which we’ve only seen the tip of the fascinating iceberg.
Did you love Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children?