Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book
153. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Dave McKean (2008)
Length: 312 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Horror/Fantasy
Started: 04 December 2008
Finished: 07 December 2008
Little boy: family
murdered, raised by ghosts, must learn
how to be alive.
(I just realize that I must mush-mouth “family”; I’m pretty sure it should have three syllables, but I always just pronounce it “fam-ly”, so I stand by my haiku on the basis of usage if not technical correctness. :)
Summary: Bod Owens (short for Nobody) has lived in the graveyard for as long as he can remember. His family was murdered when he was very little, and when he toddled into the graveyard (away from his would-be killer), the ghosts decide to take him in, protect him, and raise him. And so he grows up amongst the ghosts, learning to read from the letters on the various tombstones, learning history from those who lived through it, and learning graveyard skills such as Fading and Haunting. But, as much as he loves his home and his companions, he is a boy surrounded by the Dead, and eventually he will have to learn to face the world of the Living: a world where his ghostly protectors cannot keep him safe from the man who means to kill Bod and finish the job he began many years ago.
Review: Another book that it seems like most people LOVED, and I only liked. Although, to be fair, it’s pretty much in keeping with how I feel about Gaiman’s books in general. I know that are a lot of people out there that absolutely love everything he puts out, but personally, while I find his books reliably enjoyable, they never really blow me out of the water (with the exception of Stardust, which I did Capital-L Love.) I think in large part because while Gaiman’s an excellent storyteller, his imagination and storytelling quickly outstrip his world-building skills. He can create these super-imaginative, fantastical, creepy, bizarre situations, but they always feel a little superficial to me – the deeper metaphysics, backstory, or underlying structure usually seems as though it’s been overlooked. For people willing to take the story at face value, this is not a problem – the stories themselves are wonderful. But for people who read a story and always want to know “Why?”, Gaiman’s books are rarely 100% satisfying.
Because of all of the rave reviews, I was hoping that The Graveyard Book would be an exception to this pattern, but ’twas not to be. As a coming of age story, it was wonderful; Bod is pretty lovable, the cast of characters that surround him are colorful and add some interesting twists, and the message of the story is poignant and well-earned. As a horror/fantasy story, it’s also effective – Gaiman can write creepy like no one’s business, and I got the shivers more than once. But, when it came time to explain the backstory, I felt like things got a little hazier. Explanations about why Bod’s family was killed, who Silas is, what the Honor Guard is, etc., are given quickly and not (in my mind) particularly satisfactorily. Even so, the rest of the book is entirely entertaining, and I did quite enjoy reading it. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Solidly entertaining, and appropriately creepy and surprisingly sweet by turns, but it didn’t quite knock my socks off.
Other Reviews: RobAroundBooks, Thoughts of Joy, Average Girl Reads, SomeReads, The Hidden Side of a Leaf, Bart’s Bookshelf, The Book Zombie, Fizzy Thoughts, Things Mean a Lot, Stuff as Dreams are Made On, Nothing of Importance, Sophisticated Dorkiness, Avidbookreader.com, The Bluestocking Society, Stainless Steel Droppings (WHEW!)
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First Line: There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.