Sunday, February 22, 2009
TSS - Review - The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Source: my sister (Thanks, Carolynn!)
Synopsis from B&N:
Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family . . . Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.
It's almost difficult to put into words exactly how good this book is. I don't hesitate to say that I'm a Neil Gaiman fan - I believe he is one of the best storytellers of our generation, and I always have high expectations for his work. So when I say this novel exceeded my expectations, what I mean is that I'm not sure I have, even yet, realized exactly how brilliant it is.
Gaiman talks in his introduction about how much he owns to Kipling's "The Jungle Book", and the parallels are easy to see - a real, live boy, raised apart from his family by creatures not like himself, figuring out which world he truly belongs in - Gaiman does this sort of thing in many of his novels, and I think it works particularly well here. His characters are interesting, a little creepy, and somewhat mysterious, and he always leaves the reader a little bit of room for their own imagination.
He also doesn't force a "happily-ever-after" ending - I don't want to give too much away, but he allows the natural progression of the story, even though it doesn't end with happiness and joy, and the book is better for it. It is never a light, happy read - it does, after all, take place in a graveyard - but Gaiman's humor keeps it from feeling like a downer. Bod does his share of silly, impulsive things, and there are beautiful moments, as well, that make reading the book a pleasure.
Each time I think about it, I remember something else I loved. This is a novel I will certainly read again, and I'm sure discover more to enjoy. I'm thrilled for the author that it won this year's Newbery - I believe it deserves the praise.