Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Review; The Graveyard Book
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended
My 20-something year old self was madly in love with Neil Gaiman's writing. Upon discovering him through Neverwhere - which I bought at a grocery store on a whim while running some errands - I constantly found myself returning back to him. He was broody and british, and wrote magical stories that made the impossible seem real... if only for a moment.
As time wore on, though, I feared I was losing my taste of the fantastical. I had loved Good Omens and was intrigued by American Gods. Then, to my surprise, I was left wanting with Stardust (though I loved the premise, I couldn't quite finish it), and was not sure how I felt about Coraline (though that should not surprise most of you as you know my feelings about YA). I surprised myself even more when TNBBC chose Neverwhere as its first group read back in 2008, and I re-read along with them... only to discover I liked it less the second time around.
Yet, no matter how I've felt about the previous books, when the next one came out, I had to have it.
The Graveyard Book was no exception. I talked myself out of buying it when it first hit the shelves, though I desperately wanted to read it. It sounded amazing. A little boy, raised by ghosts in a graveyard... and the opening line was perfect - "There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife." But a little voice inside of me unreasonably whispered for me to leave it alone. And so I did. For many years.
A few weeks ago, however, while I was browsing the books at a local library sale, I stumbled across the hardcover. There was no evil, unreasonable voice whispering to me that day, and into my bag it went! Not only did it go into my bag, but it moved quite quickly to the top of my TBR pile, nearly jumping over every review copy I had queued up. Since I haven't read a book that wasn't for review in forever, my excuse was timing... it was nearly October, and I couldn't let another Halloween go by without reading it. And so read it I did.
This is quite an impressive little book, isn't it? I am actually rather upset with myself for not having read it sooner. The mood and atmosphere are perfect for this time of year, though, so I'm kinda glad I waited.
It's the story of little orphaned Nobody "Bod" Owens - the sole survivor of a heartless, gruesome triple murder - who has been raised by the graveyard ghosts for most of his life. He's been given the gift of the Freedom of the Graveyard and schooled by the specters on ghostly skills like Fading. As he ages, like any normal curious child, Bod begins to pine for life beyond the graveyard gates and grows more and more determined to find out about his life before the cemetery. Where there's a will, there's a way, and our defiant yet extremely naive Bod brings nothing but trouble to himself, his guardian Silas, and the graveyard in his search for answers.
Cleverly written, it reads like a YA novel for adults. Neil accomplishes near perfection with this novel. I say near because he had me completed invested in the book until the end. That second to last chapter felt like a cop-out. There was this incredible build up and then... a cheesy climax. I felt cheated. You have no idea how badly I wish I could convince Neil to go back and rewrite that chapter.
All in all, a kind of creepy, slightly comical, entertaining read from cover to cover. It reminded me of why I've always been partial to Neil and his storytelling.
I also love that he spent time with Audrey Niffenegger at the High Gate Cemetery during the writing of this book, and that those moments influenced its final few chapters.
Have you heard Neil reading from The Graveyard Book? Check it out here.
See the book trailer here: