The Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

Peculiars are being hunted down, taken hostage and their souls devoured. But there is a solution- capture the man who is leading this brutal movement. In the last novel of the trilogy, Jacob seeks an end to the torture that has haunted the Peculiardoms and to rescue his friends who are being held captive by the antagonist, Caul.

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A Peculiar is not that strange friend who decides to wear socks on their hands instead of gloves: Peculiars are humans gifted with certain abilities which allows them to: turn invisible or breathe underwater or communicate with bees or float through the air. There’s endless possibilities. People with these talents, however, are not welcome in society, (except in laboratories) so the Peculiars have instead found refuge in Loops, where a segment of history – perhaps only a single day, is continually repeated in a small location so that people can live there. This means that, although time is technically moving forward, the days aren’t, so the Peculiars remain the same age they were when they entered the Loop.

Which brings me onto my criticism. The romantic relationship in this story was bizarre; Riggs kindles the ongoing relationship between Emma (a girl who can create fire) and Jacob. This is dull; ultimately that is what the other two novels did. We saw their relationship develop, and there was no massive obstacle to it except at the very end when Jacob has to return to his parents. And although this crushes his heart, Jacob can still send letters to Emma and doesn’t see her for only a few months before they’re reunited indefinitely. Gripping story, eh? It would have been a more effective aspect of the novel if Riggs had put in proper tangible obstacles in the way, not a mere “I love you Emma, but I need my parents more” line in the last few pages. Also, I found it slightly strange that, due to the whole frozen age instance due to entering Loops, Emma, although appearing 16, was actually about 150 years old. This is mentioned repeatedly, and it made the whole relationship appear strange because in modern society relationships with age gaps that exceed 100 years are frowned upon.

Anyway. Considering that the novel is the last in the trilogy, it clearly wasn’t going to be as strong as its predecessors. The overarching ending was cliché: a final battle takes place between the good and evil characters: unsurprisingly the good come out unscathed and the evil are all crushed, including their fortress. Yes, they have a fortress with a moat too. It is a concept that has only been seen in nearly all children’s stories ever written. Then, after Jacob has to make the ‘heart wrenching’ decision of leaving his friends (it took him all of one paragraph) and return to his parents, a chapter later they’re all reunited. What author likes to put their protagonist into emotional turmoil, anyway?

At times it did appear that Riggs had added certain segments of the plot in merely so that it could take up more pages… so that there could actually be a novel. Some parts, although clumsily stitched into appearing to be essential to the plot, seemed weak and merely as a buffer to the actual storyline: the fact that they need a hollowgast (which is a type of monster that likes to eat Peculiars) to run the machine which would enable them to get into the fortress felt like an irrelevant fact- and yet he spends about 50 pages trying to get the characters to hunt one. Or, Riggs could have instead written, ‘and it turned out the Panloopticon (the name of the machine) was ready for use. So we prepared our things to go into battle.’ But no. We had a few lovely rambling scenes, and because it didn’t seem like the natural path for progression at that stage, it made me painfully aware that this was all fiction, instead of enjoying the story.

It was still wonderful to see how images were weaved into the plot though. Throughout the entire trilogy, Riggs has supplemented his prose with old photographs, most of them enhanced and altered using ancient techniques. They add another element to the story, not necessarily making it feel more credible, but offering a guide when you are trying to tackle imagining some of the more outlandish situations. However, if you are considering buying the Library of Souls for the pictures, I would instead recommend Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, as that one all-round is stronger.  Below is an image that was included in the first novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children:

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Overall, a disappointing end to a series that I had truly enjoyed, but nonetheless I encourage you to read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, because there all of Riggs’ crafting skills are on display, representing him at his very best.

Have you seen the film and read the book? How do they compare? Also, do you think that the Library of Souls is a strong finish? Are there any series/ trilogies out there that get better as they progress? Do leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

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Who should judge YA awards?

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The Alex Award, the Carnegie Medal, Michael L. Printz Award and the Bookseller YA Book prize. Just a few of the most prestigious YA awards on Earth, prestigious to such an extent that if any young adult author was bestowed one, happiness and pride would be positively emanating from their being. Yet who should be on that committee: who truly deserves to have the right to decide which authors can smugly plaster ‘award stickers’ across their novel’s front covers, and others be content with the trudge to the longlist? When the award is related to Young Adults, there are many controversies as to who should be in charge of making the final decisions.


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Who makes up the actual audience of YA books? 

When considering who should be the judges of a YA book award, it is essential to consider the intended audience, because what appeals to elderly women will probably not coincide with the interest of teenage boys. Of course, young adult books are read by a vast amount of teenagers, but that isn’t the full extent of it; ultimately the actual audience must be taken into consideration, as the novels must be judged against the suitability for the audience. Yet today more adults from across the age spectrum are immersing themselves into the genre too- does that mean that having adults as adjudicators is wrong though? Because if they aren’t the direct target audience, then the novels aren’t aiming to please them, and shouldn’t their opinions then be ignored? Definitely not! If there are enough people from a certain catergory interested and engaged in that type of novel, then what they think is just as important as young adults.

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Who is judging YA awards right now, and why?

Right now, the vast majority of prizes are awarded by a committee of adults. This irritates me, because surely it should be the reverse: that most of them should be awarded by adolescents, with only a sparse number of adults on each judging board? Generally what appeals to teens, regarding their experiences and perspective on the world, will be different from that of an adult- this can affect what aspects of novels engage and please them.I only mention this, because for example, toddlers can’t decide who wins picture book prizes, as they are not objective enough yet. This situation is not similar, and is  unique because of the entire intended vs. actual audience dilemma, and which would be the better in terms of decision making.

As for the why, well I feel that all we need to do is look at the YA Bookseller award’s committee: the judges are embellished with impressive titles, like Director of World Book Day, Director of the Hay festival and columnists from famous newspapers like the
Guardian Weekend. The point is, these people are leading industry figures, and thus have a certain type of status- something which appeal to some people as it can warrant their final decision as more reasonable, if any dispute should come of it like it did with the book that won the Carnegie, The Bunker, a few years ago. Even if the choice is controversial, it is widely accepted because they have these fool-proof CVs. This is most likely intended because when comparing the judgement of a  person with an accolade of impressive experience that of a student, unfortunately people are often prejudiced to vote against the student.

Naturally this is merely a hypothesis, but I think that teenagers are being excluded from judging committees because they aren’t renowned in literary circles and haven’t built a name for themselves. (I must mention that with this particular prize, teens themselves are involved with the final standings, but I am referring to prizes in general, not the YA Bookseller prize in particular). The frustrating element is that this doesn’t mean young adults can’t spot a decent novel, just because they haven’t personally edited 25 themselves! Similarly, despite the unescapable fact that most young adults haven’t been a senior librarian for over 5 years, it doesn’t mean that they are any less adept and useful as part of the judges board. As a whole, young adults cannot gain the qualifications to become “renowned enough” to be a judge and have these various required occupations (such as librarian) that are after sought after if you would like to apply, because they are actually previously engaged with a marvellous pastime called school.

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What am I suggesting as a solution?

I suggest that more teenagers become involved on judging panels, and that their view is represented fairly with the majority of awards. This is not disrespecting the previous outcomes of awards in the past, because it is clear to see that amazing novels have been shortlisted previously, but I believe that introducing a contrast in age on the committee will involve in offering differing perspectives, the younger generation’s perspective, and will change the outcome these honours for the better. I think that we can initiate this change by nominating adolescents with a keen passion for reading to be on the these boards, and perhaps one day our point will get through!

So what do you think of this idea? Do you think that more young adults should participate in judging the winners of prestigious YA awards, or are you satisfied with the current state of affairs?