Monday, December 5, 2011

Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Series: N/A
Pages: 309
Publisher: Harper Collins
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Bought

Goodreads Description:
After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own. 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 . . .  

My Review:
This was another book that I had to read for my Young Adult Literature class. I really like Neil Gaiman, so it was absolutely my pleasure to be forced into reading. As a matter of fact, I like Gaiman so much that I will be doing a guest post on him over at Bookish within the next week or so for Evie's Men in YA event. So if you like all things creepy, bizarre, and Gaiman-y, keep an eye out! The Graveyard book has a lot of the elements that Gaiman uses a lot, like fantastic imagery, death and dying implications, and of course, this odd, off-kilter, British humor that really makes his books stand out.

The story starts off with a bang, or rather, with the slip and twist of a knife in the dark. It was actually quite creepy. The opening scene is a murderer who has just killed a man, woman, and toddler without any hesitation trying to root out a baby and finish the job of murdering the whole family. Luckily, the baby has toddled off into the night and wanders into a graveyard. Things get a little paranormal when the ghosts of the graveyard decide to take the baby in and raise it, and Silas, a vampire who lives in one of the cemeteries crypts, confuses the murderer into thinking that the baby went somewhere else. What happens next is a completely compelling and magical story about the dead, the living, and what exactly it is that separates the two.

The rest of the book takes place in random glimpses into the baby's life. Now named Nobody Owens by his ghostly guardians, Nob has been having the most interesting and unnatural upbringing of pretty much anyone. He is tutored in English and reading by a poet over 200 years deceased, his guardian is a vampire, and his tutor in most other subjects is a werewolf. Not to mention all of the other ghostly inhabitants of the graveyard teaching him things like "disappearing" and "haunting"... No wonder he has some trouble dealing with normal humans, and things turn out pretty interesting when he tries to "haunt" his classmates when they are mean to him. But my favorite parts of the story were when there was a more pronounced supernatural element, like when Nob is taken into the world of the ghouls and he needs to speak gryffin to talk his way out of capture. I loved all the different creatures and thought that there were some truly original takes on the cultures and descriptions of the traditional monsters. And throughout this landscape of the strange and fantastic, there is always an underlying current of dry British humor that has you cracking up at every other turn of the page.
"Name the different kinds of people,’ said Miss Lupescu. Bod thought for a moment. ‘The living,’ he said. ‘Er. The dead.’ He stopped...Then, ‘...Cats?’ he offered, uncertainly." 
One of my favorite aspects of this book was the They are a secret organization known as the Jacks of All Trades. There's just something about secret organizations that freak me out. Especially something like the Jacks who are assassins and magicians and can be anybody on earth. In this organization, everyone's name (or at least alias) is Jack, and the specific Jack that is trying to kill Nobody is called Jack Frost. I feel like all of the other relevant Jacks (about 4 or 5 other ones come into play later in the book) have meaning too, but I either haven't read enough to understand the references, or they are British cultural examples...or both. Still, the Jacks were quite creepy, and all of them had weird super powers, or were just terrifying assassins. I think that they really played on the natural fear of the unknown, or that evil is hiding in plain sight.

I think that The Graveyard Book deserves 4 out of 5 Keys. Neil Gaiman takes mystery and the paranormal to entirely new places. Graveyard Book is a fantastic example of a fantasy book for middle grade and younger teens. It does pretty much exactly what any good fantasy book does: show us a mysterious and wonderful world that is much more magical than our own. The imagery and descriptions are fantastic. You really feel like you can reach out and grab Nobody and Silas, and I can see someone like Tim Burton really getting into it and creating a movie reminisent of The Corpse Bride, or Coraline( another one of Neil's wonderful creations)
My Favorite Quote:
"You're alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you can change the world, the world will change. Potential. Once you're dead, it's gone. Over. You've made what you've made, dreamed your dream, written your name. You may be buried here, you may even walk. But that potential is finished."
SO that was The Graveyard Book. Awesome yes? Yes indeed. So this is rather off topic, but while reading this book, it was brought up that there are no truly great American authors(I can't remember if it was strictly Horror authors or just authors in general). This book isn't exactly horror, but I can kind of see where my professor was going. Harry Potter: J.K. Rowling, Lord of the Rings: Tolkien, The Chronicles of Narnia: C.S.Lewis. My argument was that Stephen King is one of the Greats, but then was countered with the fact that he hasn't written anything of absolute amazement since The Dark Tower series...what do you guys think? Are all the "Great" pieces of literature all spawned from those smarty-pants Europeans? Or do we Americans still have a hand in the matter? Let me know in the comments :)


  1. I adore Neil Gaiman and this book is fantastic. I'm glad you liked it! :)

  2. Gaiman has some great books, I haven't read this one yet. I think there are still some great authors out there writing great Horror for us.

  3. I have been wanting to read this book for a while. I see it every time I go to work. I have heard wonderful things.

  4. Great review I thought this was really cute! And I hadn't noticed about the no-horror american authors. I would still count Stephen King though since his books are still selling like crazy!

    Xpresso Reads

  5. Oh my goodness, Neil Gaiman is my favourite author. I keep catching myself on the verge of worship, which, you know, kind of conflicts with my faith :P

    I've started having dreams with Neil Gaiman in them! NOT creepy dreams, just like, 'And now, our next guest: NEIL GAIMAN!' *Cue fangirl squealing*

    I ADORE The Graveyard Book. It's everything I love about reading: magic, danger, whimsy, make-believe.

    I TOTALLY dig the British humour, also. Just... I just love Neil Gaiman. As far as I go, her can do no wrong, but this book rocks my world. Everyone should read it. It's a fabulous Gaiman gateway drug, as well. A good introduction to his writing?

  6. I loved this book too! I was surprised at how creepy it actually was at the beginning though.

  7. i havent heard of this book thanks for bringing it to my attention it sounds so interesting

  8. My daughter introduced me to Neil Gaiman's books. He is certainly unique. Got to love that. I haven't read this one yet, but I have loved others of his including NEVERWHERE.