Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Book Club Article #1: The Pacing Problem in Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children

Before we get started, I want to point something out. I try not to be one of these:

And I definitely don't want anyone to mistake me for one of these guys...

But that's what I feel like when I give a book a negative review and then, for whatever reason, end up needing to write about it again. As a book blogger, my goal is to help people find books that they love. Generally, I try not to rant too much about books that I didn't click with.

But Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is this month's selection for the Fall Book Club and I need to write about it. So I guess I'll tackle the thing that really kept me from clicking with this book for several hours and well over a hundred pages...

This book had a problem with pacing. 

What is Pacing?

Pacing is that quality in a book that can be measured by how easy or difficult that you, as a reader, are finding it to turn the page and keep going. Some people also call this Page Turning Quality (PTQ). It's a vital ingredient that every author wants to have in their book. Unfortunately, as with all things related to writing, it is reliant on the reader as much or moreso then it is on the writer.

We all like a well paced book. But what seemed to be flying by for one person might make someone else feel like they need to pin their eyes open so that they'll keep going. Some of us love lush descriptions of the world, or quick snappy dialogue, long or short chapters, single or multiple points of view.

Any one of these, or a million other things, can gum up a book's pacing for you. It's something that is really individual.

What Was My Issue?

The book started off alright. I was very keen to hear about Jacob and his grandfather. I was very excited (and a bit sad, too) when it is shown that monsters got him. But then the book went flat for quite a while.

I understand that the material in the early parts of the book was actually important stuff now that I have finished the book. But as I said in my review, I would not have finished Miss Peregrine... and that would have been too bad. Because I was actually very interested by the end of the book.

1. Too much time was spent on the therapy that Jacob was receiving and / or the way it was handled did not allow it to hold my interest.

2. When we get to the island, it took too long for Jacob to discover the house and for the actual "meat" of the book ... which I think was from chapter six onward? ... to get going.

As a fellow writer of fantasy, I can understand and appreciate Ransom Riggs need to feel confident that his readers will understand what is going on and be properly grounded in the story. It can be easy and tempting to move too quickly through scenes and to overwhelm the reader. But it's also a dangerous game to move too slowly and to risk a reader losing interest or getting too distracted.

When I start wanting to skim through your descriptions, it's generally because nothing is happening.

Contrast this with the end of the book where I was gripping the thing for dear life and could not put it down. Please realize I am not saying Riggs is incapable of telling an interesting story, as that could not be farther from the truth. Once Miss Peregrine... got going it kept my interest just fine and it ended with an exciting conclusion that left me anxious to find out what would happen next.

I sincerely hope that the pacing issue I had here was a first book issue. I hope he next one, while the whole thing does *not* need to be as fast paced as the ending, does not suffer from the same sense of getting bogged down that I found here.

This book had a lot of potential. I am glad that it did eventually reach that. I just wish it had done so sooner. Glad I was reading it for this book club, otherwise it might have ended up a DNF (did not finish) and that would have been a true shame.


  1. Great review. It didn't make me dislike the book, but I agree that the beginning was a bit slow and the end was super fast-paced. I wish that if we were going to start out that slow we'd at least have more time with gramps. I really liked that character. Still, I enjoyed the overall book.

  2. Thanks for the honest review! I had a hard time giving the same kind of review for The Prestige - a book I really wanted to love, but was really more indifferent about than anything. Why? Pacing. haha.

    I think you summed up the problem with pacing perfectly! I still want to read this book, and I'm dying to see all the photos that were used.

  3. Agreed that pacing was an issue. I wanted more time on the island to get to know the Peculiars as individuals (Emma aside). PTQ at the end was great, though.

  4. This book was a tough read for me as well. At times it felt like a chore. Pacing was a problem and the photos didn't help with this, IMO. But the end was indeed riveting, and like you, I'm glad I read it all the way through! It turned out much better than I expected.

  5. This is such a thoughtful review! I agree that the pacing (in the beginning, especially) was a little slow, but that didn't bother me so much. For me, Jacob's slightly snarky and self-depreciating narration made up for it and kept me entertained during the dragging bits. And you're right, the ending seemed to almost sneak up on me with it's sudden forward movement. It'll be interesting to see how Riggs paces the follow up to MISS PEREGRINE.

  6. Awesome post - I think the book had issues with pacing too, but I still liked it. There are some books that go flat and I wonder about that in my own writing and how people get away with it. I think it boils down to intrigue and how long you're willing to wait.

    Negative reviewing makes me feel all ogre-ish too.


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