Six impossible things before breakfast.

A library science student's perspective on life, the universe, and everything.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Peculiar Children

I always enjoy reading first novels. I think a first literary work says a lot about an author. Obviously it's not the first story he or she has ever written, or probably even the first project to have logged hours and hours, if not years of one's life. But it is fascinating to witness that first statement, printed words that cannot be taken back, painting a picture, a life, an adventure. I have thought so many times when an interesting plot line or character has crossed paths with my brain, that this could be my first book. And so far it hasn't happened, but maybe some day it will. I know there is a lot of hard, grueling work that goes into any publication--especially a first book--but I believe there's something more to it than that, something peculiar.

I just finished reading Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. It is a terribly fun, fast-paced read, and a very intriguing first novel. The story is familiar and fantastical both at once. A sixteen year old trying to prove--or disprove--the extraordinary tales he heard from his grandfather as a child, whose journey brings him to a island off the coast of Wales where he must confront truths which might be easier left undisturbed. Ransom Riggs (I'm not sure if this is his actual name?) has not only created a compelling story with his first novel, he's also created an unconventional and captivating reading experience. For the book is peppered with photographs--authentic, vintage photographs found and compiled by various collectors--some of which have received minimal alterations, true, but these unique and often haunting images truly set the tone of the story. They are placed within the pages physically inseparable from the dialogue and narration of the book, and as the protagonist, Jacob, finds and studies them in the novel, so the reader is able to also. It doesn't feel like a "picture book" by any means, but the photos do lend an air of authenticating the uncanny half-reality in which the story exists. I don't think I've ever read a book that incorporated pictures in quite this way, but Riggs definitely turns it into a powerful and provoking method of storytelling.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children also has a creepy book trailer; having finished the book I think it's almost a little misleading, but definitely it has the same fascinating/frightening page-turning spark. Months before I ever read the book, I saw both the book trailer and a sort of "behind the scenes" look at the shooting of the trailer (as it turns out, the author has a history of making short films). This second video is amazing. It's very cool to see the places Riggs traveled to as he undertook a real-life search for the home of the peculiar children, and honestly, I think this video is just as striking as the actual book trailer (if not more). As a film lover, I am excited about this new trend of book trailers, but as a life-long reader, I admit I kind of resent it. I rewatched the trailer for Miss Peregrine after finishing the book today, and I was very glad I hadn't seen it right before reading the novel. Even a book like Miss Peregrine with physical pictures integrated into the story itself leaves so much up to the imagination. When you are presented with a solid picture of a character or a setting, it's hard to push that completely aside and let your mind create its own view of the story. I worry sometimes that we're not leaving enough for our imaginations to do in this day and age. But at the same time, I really appreciate Riggs' commitment to reaching across mediums, finding a way to communicate his story through text and images and film. For good or ill the future is likely to be in these cross-media experiences.

No comments:

Post a Comment