Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children- Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

I finally, finally got around to reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children after being on my library’s hold list for two months.  Sadly, I was a bit disappointed with this book, but did appreciate the immense creativity of the whole endeavor.

Miss Peregrine is a unique little book where a narrative is constructed around a series of vintage photographs which are mostly odd or unsettling.  The story itself is about a boy named Jacob.  Jacob grows up on his grandfather’s tales and photographs of his childhood in a home for children with peculiar talents (like super-strength or levitation or premonitions).  Jacob’s grandfather dies under mysterious circumstances and Jacob goes on a quest to discover more about his grandfather’s past.  Along the way, he uncovers some very strange truths about himself and the world around him.

The story has lots of twists and turns and could be a little spooky, but I think it would be much scarier on screen.  However, it didn’t really wow me and I’m not really sure why.  It just wasn’t striking any chords, I guess.

All that said, though, I was impressed with the creativity of constructing a narrative based on photographs.  We talked a lot about photographs in a couple of my classes in graduate school and I highly recommend you check out Print the Legend by Martha Sandweiss if you are interested in the history of photography and the use of photography in the practice of history.  Sandweiss argues that photographs are unique in that they don’t in and of themselves tell a story (though this has changed as photography has evolved) and that they are troublesome historical sources because they are easy to manipulate (not just in the Photoshop sense of things, but also in the way you can choose what to photograph and what is photographed may itself be manipulated).  I couldn’t stop thinking about Sandweiss’s arguments as I read this book.  Riggs is just imposing a narrative on these vintage photographs– they don’t have a story of their own that can be ascertained just by looking at them.  Riggs makes some fantastical guesses, but the real motives and stories behind these photographs are likely lost to time.

The photographs are incorporated both as objects in the story and as illustrations of the story.  However, something fell a little flat to me.  I am perhaps used to much more analysis coupled with photographs in books I’m reading, so there were times that the photographs felt a little like convenient props or simple illustrations.  Like… here is the description of Miss Peregrine and then you turn the page and there’s a lady that looks like that description.  I guess I would have liked to hear more about some of the characters or the photographs.

My mind wanders A LOT when I start thinking about the use of photographs in fiction… like I wonder if the use of photographs as illustrations limits the imagination.  I haven’t read too much fiction with illustrations, but whenever I see a movie based on a book, I have difficulty reconciling how things looked on screen in comparison with how things looked in my head.  I mean, illustrations and movies tell us how a certain setting or character looks and doesn’t give us the same leeway our imaginations do.  What would my experience of Miss Peregrine have been if I couldn’t see the photographs?  Might I have been more scared by the story?  Could I still imagine the peculiar children in the same way?

What do you think about illustrations or photographs in books?  Do they add something to the story or do they take away the freedom of imagination?

Other Reviews:
Alison @ The Cheap Reader
Candice @ The Grown-Up YA

(Holla in the comments if you want me to link to you, too.)

13 thoughts on “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children- Ransom Riggs

    • I think my expectations were pretty high and this was just not a good as I’d been hearing. Apparently there is going to be a sequel… which I probably won’t bother reading, although I do want to flip through it and look at the photos. That was really the highlight for me!

  1. Pingback: Book Review: “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” « The Cheap Reader

  2. I thought he was definitely writing TO the pictures. It’s like he had these pictures and wanted to incorporate them so he managed to get them into the story (even if they didn’t fit). It had the potential to be awesome but didn’t quite live up to it.

    • Some pictures were better incorporated than others, but you’re right, it was like a creative writing assignment… you must use all these pictures to come up with a story– don’t leave ANY out. I love the idea of photographs inspiring a story, but there has to be a better way to do it than just describing the photo and printing it on the next page.

      And I pretty much had no feelings about the story or characters. It was interesting enough to keep me reading, but eh, I’ve already forgotten it. Major disappointment.

  3. I like how you’re incorporating links to other reviews. I may have to add that to mine. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery right? 🙂

    • Thanks! My main goal is to give credit to people whose reviews influence me to read a book. Also, when I care so little about a book (as is the case with Miss Peregrine), I figure I owe my readers at least a link to a real review!

  4. Aw, I’m sad you didn’t like this one that much! I loved it, but it wasn’t what I was expecting in the slightest bit. Which was slight disappointing, but it helped that I ended up enjoying the book. I don’t know about the pictures and how they’re placed in the book; I read it on my Kindle and sometimes the pictures wouldn’t show up for like 3 or 4 “pages” so it was just like “oh, a picture. Moving on.” I think this book has some potential to be a really good movie and I sincerely hope it gets made! Maybe you’ll enjoy that more 🙂

    • In the book, the pictures usually were on the page following the description. It was laid out in my second favorite way (the first being having the photo actually on the page with the description…having read a lot of academic press histories, I have seen photos laid out all sorts of ways with the most popular (cheapest and most annoying) being having all the photos at the end or in a middle section. I’m SO SO glad they chose not to do that with this book. The kindle layout sounds annoying, though!! (dude, who knew I had so many thoughts about photo/text layouts?))

      I’d be willing to see the movie, esp if it was Tim Burton like you’d mentioned. I certainly didn’t hate this book, but it was just ok in most respects. Oh well… not going to win them all, I guess!!

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