The AHS faculty talk about books.

"The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman

Reviewed by: Honey de Peralta

review originally published in Coffeespoons

I've loved Neil Gaiman ever since I read the original version of Stardust (the graphic novel illustrated by Charles Vess). I then followed him through Neverwhere, American Gods, Anansi Boys, his collection of short stories Smoke and Mirrors, and even his collaboration with Terry Pratchett in Good Omens. Of his young adult and children's works, I've read Coraline, The Wolves in the Walls, and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish. Unfortunately, though, I haven't gone through his Sandman graphic novels yet.

Anyway, I was pushed to get The Graveyard Book because, aside from it being a Gaiman novel, it also won the Newbery Award, a feat which I found curious.

Let me explain: majority of the Gaiman books I had read were dark fantasy meant for more mature readers. I simply found it curious and laudable that Gaiman could so easily transition to writing for younger audiences. To be honest about it, I thought that Coraline and his other storybooks were just a "hobby" for him. I see the Newbery proves me wrong.

In usual Gaiman style, The Graveyard Book starts out with something dark--the murder of a family, with the exception of a little toddler, who somehow finds his way to the local graveyard. Though the murderer follows him there, the residents of the graveyard--a plethora of ghosts and one vampire--decide to grant the boy protection and give him the freedom of the graveyard. Hence, the live boy, adopted by ghostly parents and named Nobody "Bod" Owens, becomes a resident of the graveyard.

Bod grows up nurtured by the different ghosts in his home. His guardian Silas, the vampire, manages his education by finding him tutors among the dead in the graveyard and basically feeding Bod's curiosity about the world. Bod's world, although seemingly grim, is actually warm, homey, and caring. It is when Bod insists on going into the world of the living that things get positively threatening.

Gaiman was right--he mentions in an interview with Stephen Colbert that it is the humans in this book who are scary. The "monsters" are the decent ones. I would say this is an excellent summary of his world view.

Within a graveyard and the cusp of the world of the living and the dead, Gaiman has created a story of charm, wonder, and coming of age. Beyond the sinister aspects, this is what resonates, though I do love a good sinister tale. Most importantly, however, the story gives hope without fudging the reality of the world--that bad things happen, change is constant, and people will have to leave at some point. And this is a great thing to tell some point.


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