Monday, June 1, 2009

Review: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
4 stars

Reasons for reading: 2009 Newbery Medal-winner for the Book Awards Challenge

Description: "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 . . . "

First line: "There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife."

My thoughts: I didn't think I was going to like this book. The only Gaiman I've read is American Gods and it was tooooo weird for me (though, to give him credit, very memorable). And, as it opened with horrible murders, I figured I was going to be right. But it was okay - because out of those murders came Nobody Owens, an extraordinary boy. He's raised by an entire graveyard of ghosts and one shadowy guardian who is neither alive nor dead. Gaiman really makes the ghosts come alive, as much as they can - they never change, but they all have their own distinct personalities and they all come to love the living boy who grows up to be a brave, clever young man.

My only quibble is that backstory of why Bod's family was murdered by "the man Jack" is a bit...vague, in my opinion. It felt a bit like there had to be a reason for the murders and that was inserted in. (I'm sure it wasn't the case, but it felt like it to me.) But I loved how the evil league of Jacks of All Trades had the names of every famous legendaryJack in history.

Gaiman is definitely a very talented writer, I should stop thinking of him as weird and creepy and give him more of a chance. :) His description of the Danse Macabre - when the dead come down to town and dance with the living - is beautiful, haunting, sad, and joyful. The section with the ghouls (who name themselves after dead historical figures, like The Emperor of China or The Bishop of Bath and Wells) is both hilarious and horrifying. And the climax with Bod being chased by Jacks around the graveyard kept me up last night.

The verdict: I had my doubts, but I can definitely see why this won the Newbery.


Janssen said...

Early on I wasn't impressed, but by the end I was sold. Very sweet.

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Me too, exactly!

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