Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

TITLE: The Graveyard Book
AUTHOR: Neil Gaiman
PAGES: 336
FORMAT: Paperback
ISBN: 978-1410414410
BUY IT: Amazon
RATING: 5/5 [in the genre] or 8/10 [all books I’ve ever read].
FOR: Anyone who was ever a child and enjoys creepy, dry humor and whimsical story telling.

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-an ancient Indigo Man beneath the hill, a gateway to a desert leading to an abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family. . . .

The Basics: Neil Gaiman is my literary hero. A few books in and he’s already risen to stand with my heroes Vonnegut and Palahniuk. The Graveyard Book is no exception. Dry, eerie, and devilishly funny, it turns childlike storytelling into something both children and adults can enjoy. Bod begins the story as a young boy with childlike wonderment and ends a street-savvy teen facing his family’s killer. The ending is bittersweet—not the perfect happy ending you’d expect, but ever hopeful. Cast with characters as quirky and lifelike as Bod himself, it’s a world I could return to again and again. 

Plot (5/5): It’s not easy to span fifteen years in one novel without losing your audience, particularly if those fifteen years take your hero from toddlerhood to teens. Gaiman handles it well. Rather than attempting to cover every important detail, he gives us snippets of each stage. The novel becomes almost a collection of intertwined fairy tales, glued together by the mystery of Bod and the nefarious man Jack. The danger is always present and real, but without ever sacrificing the lightheartedness that trips between whimsy and sarcasm. 

Concept (5/5): Boy’s family is killed. Boy escapes to graveyard. Boy is raised by ghosts and questionably otherworldly guardian. Already, we have the creativity for which Gaiman is so well known. The graveyard is a fleshed-out society with its own customs, laws, and flavor. The Jacks are perhaps a bit understated, but so clever and pun-filled that I can forgive the lack of development. It’s set in the modern world, but it has the feel of an old town. Timeless. 

Characters (5/5): Bod himself is clever and entertaining, even as a toddler. His perspective shapes the way we see the graveyard. He’s a little more alive than you’d expect from a fairy tale hero, with more personality. This is perfect for an updated tale. The other characters are not as fleshed out, but they don’t need to be. First of all, they’re ghosts (ha ha). Second, they’re easily recognizable and do well to populate Bod’s world without overshadowing his own journey. I came to know and love them without really needing to know all their outs and ins. 

Style (5/5): Gaiman’s style is a favorite of mine. He’s always witty, often sardonic, sometimes light, sometimes dark, never taking himself too seriously. He’ll make you laugh even at the darkest of moments. Parts were very touching; others made me laugh out loud and read the same lines over and over. Literally, laugh out loud. In my office. It was quite embarrassing. The language is accessible to younger readers but with plenty of clever metaphors and more elevated vocabulary sprinkled in, giving older readers additional layers. 

Mechanics (5/5): Flawless, as always. 

Take Home Message: A quick read with a sharp, chilling wit.

1 comment:

  1. This book is full of fun and is equal parts fantastically horrifying and supremely endearing. Fans of CORALINE (Read the book, by the way. The movie was cute but no match for the written version) will love this book.

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