This book is everywhere lately. I've heard there's even a movie planned. And it does look like an interesting, unusual book so I picked up a copy to see what all the hype was about.
Sixteen-year-old Jacob has always idolized his grandfather, whose parents sent him from Poland to Wales to escape death in WWII concentration camps. Grandpa lived an adventurous life before settling in Florida, but his happiest memories are of his years in Wales, where he lived in a remote orphanage. Jacob loves the stories he tells of the strange orphans, and the photographs Grandpa still has of them, even though Grandpa's stories of escaping monsters gave him nightmares as a kid.
Then Jacob gets a frantic phone call from Grandpa, who insists that the monsters have found him. When Jacob arrives at Grandpa's house, he finds him nearly dead--and sees a tentacle-tongued monster lurking nearby. Before he dies, Grandpa gives Jacob some cryptic directives about finding the bird in the loop.
No one believes Jacob that the monsters Grandpa talked about were real. He's sent to a psychiatrist, who nearly convinces him he hallucinated the whole thing in a moment of stress. Then he discovers an old letter while helping clean out his Grandpa's house, and realizes Grandpa wanted him to visit the orphanage in Wales and track down its headmistress, Miss Peregrine.
It took me three paragraphs to properly explain the set-up. That's about a third of the book. Once Jacob gets to Wales, things move a little faster, but not much actually happens. In a more inventive book the lack of action might have been welcome. But this book isn't actually all that inventive, except for the (real) photographs sprinkled throughout the text as illustrations--that was the stroke of genius that elevates this from a mediocre younger-YA adventure to the surreal crossover fantasy it's being marketed as.
The writing is okay. Jacob isn't a very interesting character, though, and there's a big disconnect between events in Florida in the first third of the book and events in Wales in the rest of the book. I'd have really liked to see how a Florida native reacts to a Welsh summer, but beyond Jacob's passing mention that he'd never known it could be so cold in June, Jacob might as well have been Welsh himself. The plot unfolded slowly with a certain amount of tension in the mystery of the orphanage, but when Jacob discovers what's really going on it's kind of a let-down.
It took me a while to finish the book because I kept putting it down. I just couldn't stay interested in the plot or the characters. The ending is an obvious set-up for a sequel--or more probably a series, since that's how it goes these days. But I don't have the least interest in reading more about these characters.