Ransom Riggs, in his novel Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, vividly describes the transformation that Jacob, the main character, undergoes as he attempts to uncover his grandfather's mysterious past. From his childhood, having heard Grandpa Abraham Portman's stories of monsters and exotic children, Jacob, a seemingly ordinary boy, grows to accept this as merely a fictitious tale. However, when Jacob finds his grandfather mysteriously dead, he catches sight of a monster with "eyes that swam in dark liquid, [and] furrowed trenches of carbon-black flesh" (33), realizing that the seemingly innocuous childhood stories were indeed true. Eager to trace his grandfather's past, Jacob travels to the ruins of the children's home on Cairnholm Island, where he inadvertently finds a "time loop" for September 3, 1940, and discovers that the children from his grandfather's time are still alive. Here, Jacob unexpectedly forms a friendship with Emma, his grandfather's former lover, which impacts his life negatively by fostering an increased sense of suspicion toward occurrences in the material world, but positively by altering his initially low self-concept, allowing him to be more independent and assertive in nature.
When he first sees Emma, he is welcomed to a knife at the throat, as she questions his origins. However, when Miss Peregrine, the head mistress, reveals that Jacob is indeed Abraham's grandson, Emma's suspicions towards him are quickly subdued. Witnessing the feats of the children, including Emma who could handle fire, Jacob, through his friendship with Emma, attempts to learn about the dangers haunting the peculiars. However, due to Emma's inability to reveal this information due to Miss Peregrine's orders, he quickly becomes angered, believing that the peculiars had "tried to seduce [him] with food and fun and girls while keeping all the bad things a secret" (247). Nevertheless, in an attempt to reestablish a genuine friendship, when Emma tells Jacob that his grandfather's peculiar ability was that of seeing monsters, Jacob comes to realize his own ability as the same, making him further suspicious of the world around him. Furthermore, although Jacob initially attempts to justify his sighting of the monster after his grandfather's murder, he is unable to convince anyone, and agrees to go "to a brain-shrinker... named Dr. Golan" (39) for psychiatric help. When Jacob realizes that his own psychiatrist was a wight that was stalking him to find the peculiars in Miss Peregrine's time loop, he reaches the epitome of his suspicion, realizing that his whole life as an coerlfolc, or "ordinary" person, was never safe. He therefore decides to abandon his own family and embraces his friendship with Emma and the other peculiar children, seeking another loop to be protected in.
Despite the increased suspicion towards the world that Jacob develops as a result of his friendship with Emma, his relationship with her nevertheless elevates his self-concept and shapes him as a more independent and assertive individual. Prior to his friendship, Jacob succumbs to the influence of his family and society, seeking psychiatric help as a result of the strict enforcement he was subjected to. However, when he meets Emma, Jacob develops a devout interest in learning more about the world within the time loop and therefore whole-heartedly disregards his father's initial command to never travel alone. As his friendship develops, despite his increased suspicions regarding the "commoner" society, Jacob nevertheless realizes his sense of place as one among the peculiar children, and as a final act of assertiveness, decides to abandon his family and instead live with the peculiar children, realizing that his "old life was as impossible to return to as the children's bombed house" (348).
Upon assessing the story as a whole, it is evident that Jacob's friendship with Emma served as a medium through which Jacob's life was impacted both positively and negatively, thereby allowing for his mental and social growth as he understands the realities of the world around him.