Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Graveyard Book

By Neil Gaiman

Two Things I Liked About The Graveyard Book:
1. It takes a graveyard to raise a child.
2. The illustrations.

I know I read and review a lot of young adult literature, but this is the real deal - so young adult it’s almost children’s literature, in spite of a title like The Graveyard Book, which sounds much more sinister than you’d expect of your average children’s story. I don’t tend to venture much into the territory of books with ratings of 12+ or lower, as much as my sister may try to persuade me to do so to share her appreciation of series like Percy Jackson. But Neil Gaiman is such a respected figure in the fantasy community - writing for children and adults alike (he’s the author of both Stardust and Coraline) - The Graveyard Book was supposedly a successful crossover story, and I was looking for some lighter reading to do over Thanksgiving break, so I thought I’d give it a try.

One might think, judging this book by its cover - and its title - that a spooky story lies within its pages. One might be right. While his family is murdered by a sinister figure known only as “the man Jack,” a young baby son crawls out of the house before the man Jack reaches his room, then up the hill to a nearby cemetery. There, he is found by a ghost couple who shroud him from the sight of the man Jack, who comes looking for the baby, and then develop such concern and affection for the child that they convince the cemetery ghost community to allow them to adopt him. The Graveyard Book progresses in a series of vignettes characterizing the coming of age of so-dubbed Nobody Owens, human boy raised by ghosts, straddling the physical and spiritual worlds and eventually, allowing his past to catch up with him.

The premise of The Graveyard Book sounds really sinister. And it’s true that the man Jack, with his vendetta against Nobody Owens’s family, is creepy, as are several other scenarios in the book. But somehow, the book manages not to be scary. Obviously, my scare standards are going to be a little bit higher than a child’s - but not by too much, I’d wager! I scare pretty easy. Gaiman softens the spooky factor with a healthy dose of childlike whimsy. The main cause for my low rating is that I just never really got attached to Nobody Owens. Reading The Graveyard Book was kind of like listening to a scary story over a campfire - a little spooky, a little fun, but you’re too distracted by fire and friends and probably s’mores to get too wound up about the actual story. Part of it, too, may have been that it was a little too below my reading level. But that serves to say that perhaps it doesn’t straddle the adult and child audiences as well as it’s said to.

The chapter illustrations were gorgeous, though.

Books Read This Year: 92
Top 100 Progress: 48/101

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