In which I shall review, for your reading pleasure, a handful of novels of light reading leisure! Beginning with MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN!
This novel opens with a terribly ordinary, terribly sad-about-being-ordinary teenage boy whose grandpapa regaled him with tall tales in his toddling years, which tales soon become nightmares as the boy’s grandpapa is murdered. The book features some rather charming photos, all vintage and creepy, adding to an atmosphere that early on in the novel might terrify a younger reader (I *do* hope so). Sadly, while our tale begins nightmarishly enough, it soon transforms into, oh… think children X-men set in the remote Welsh countryside. If I had known at the outset that THIS was to be the essential premise, I think I’d have minded less. But after the promise of a wickedly frightful beginning, the children’s high-powered hijinx offer comparatively less appeal. Even so, the vivid prose and splendiforous crafting make for an enjoyable tale. Read the first chapters of the book to your eight and ten year old children and then lie and tell them the remainder of the book is far too frightening to read. Their imaginations should do the rest.
Our next bit of fictitious whimsy is–well, actually, it’s somewhat less fictitious than most fiction because before writing this book about a boy who spends five days in a mental institution, the author actually spent five days in a mental institution–which probably explains the book’s sense of realism. (I heartily commend this technique for all aspiring writers, by the by; if I were to write a book about a cannibal in London, I’d get a few murders and a filet homo sapien or two under my belt before putting pen to page…). Actually, the book’s portrayal of depression was so accurate I got depressed myself! Our pubescent protagonist very nearly throws himself off a bridge, then checks himself into the mental ward of the nearest hospital, which turns out to be full of a plucky panorama of just the sorts of zany characters you’d expect in a children’s book version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The end, alas, is dreadfully “inspiring,” which is my natural antithesis as a villain, and therefore I can’t support it. The final few pages actually gave me a seizure. Which means anyone with a shred of decency will adore it.
In this novel, dear reader, another teenage boy tries to kill himself and fails! Honestly, you lot have NO idea what you’re doing, do you? Pardon my critiques, but speaking as a cannibalistic sociopath–it’s down the river, not across the road! *Ahem* Anyway, once our youthful narrator fails at his final farewell, he finds himself temporarily trapped at an institution with a somber shrink (whom he snidely names “Cat Poop”) who refuses to let him go until he plays the part of a good patient (have a good cry, let it all out, it gets better…). Well! Jeff is having none of that. Our pugnacious protagonist tells off Cat Poop, flouts the rules, gets sexed up by the not-gay jock, and–you know what? Just read it. Indeed, it’s ye olde teen angst tale of WOE–but it is also, my dears, FABULOUSLY funny. The best thing you will read all year. Not reading it is like not eating a scrumptious raspberry red velvet cake that is right in front of you, simply because you are on an I-don’t-read-contemporary-teenage-novels diet. And that would be stupid. Because that cake is spectacularly delicious, better than that pre-packaged and artificially-flavored television serials whose unrealistically proportioned main characters make you jealous. So now darling, put away whatever else you are doing and do have a go at this book.