“It’s like the people who believe they’ll be happy if they go and live somewhere else, but who learn it doesn’t work that way. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. If you see what I mean.”
Title: The Graveyard Book Author: Neil Gaiman Language: English Publication details: UK: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2008. Pages: 288
The gist of it:
Nobody Owens, lives in a graveyard.
Ghosts, ghouls and various supernatural beings abounds.
A man named Jack killed his family, and is out to kill him too.
Nobody is smart, curious and determined.
He does his best to circumvent an odious ending.
The Graveyard Book is my first venture into Neil Gaiman, and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Even though it is a book supposedly meant for “kids”, The Graveyard Book, as can be speculated by the name itself, steps into the territory of murder, death and revenge. I wholeheartedly approve!
Now I’m not particularly fond of violence and the macabre, but any kids book which doesn’t treat kids like total idiots always gets a hearty head nod from me. The Graveyard Book tells of Nobody Owens, whose family was murdered when he was a baby. He is then raised in a graveyard by some ghosties, gets tutelage from a vampire, and seeks out the man who murdered his parents.
Oh yeah, and he’s CAREFUL about it. Unlike most adolescent protagonists who just go head first into things, whining about how pitiful their lives are and swearing eternal vengeance, then inevitably falling head over impractical heels for another excessively delusional teenager who also believes in one true love. SIGH.
Nobody Owens is nothing like that cookie-cutter formula of a protagonist! His parents were murdered when he was a baby. He doesn’t spend his time pitying himself, he can barely remember them. Instead, he acknowledges his cool supernatural powers gained from living in the graveyard and tries to seek out the murderer. He wants vengeance, sure. He doesn’t go all crazy emotional about it, he knows he has to be logical about his revenge. He needs to find out about Jack the murderer, and be careful about it. He meets a girl who he becomes good friends with, and guess what? He doesn’t fall in love with her! A goddamned miracle in nowadays YA literature. A miracle, I tell ya.
So Nobody Owens is a very likable protagonist. His guardian, Silas, very cool. Stoic, serious and treats children like adults. I like that. Little miss witchy ghost who helps out Owen and develops a minor crush on him – she was a quirky character who I definitely loved! I could totally see Helena Bonham Carter playing her. Does this mean Johnny Depp would play Silas?
Indubitably so. This book kinda reads like a Tim Burton movie now when I think about it.
The story plays out with little insights into Bod’s life, while also progressing in the revelation of the man who murdered his parents. We get to read about Bod growing up, his life in the graveyard, his tentative footsteps into the real world, all while following him in tracking down the murderer of his parents. Bod’s methods of dealing with some bullies and nosy cops are clever and creative. He serves out comeuppance as justly deserved and oh, it is just ingenious and fully entertaining!
I also really loved the ending of the book. I wouldn’t call it bittersweet, but rather a sort of ‘life goes on’ ending. It’s not epic, it’s just closure, and marks the beginning of a new part of Bod’s life. I like epic endings, as long as they aren’t disproportionately dramatic, but I also liked this refreshing take on an ending where everything doesn’t end in one perfect climax. Just like in real life, major events all fade into memories eventually and we simply move on.
“Things blossom in their time. They bud and bloom, blossom and fade. Everything in its time.”
Gothic undertones, likable characters, interesting main and side plots – The Graveyard Book is a read worth the time. The only complaint I could have is that Neil Gaiman didn’t reveal more backstory of some of the characters and the murderous bad guy, but honestly I’m gonna have to go with less is more in this case. I congratulate an author who keeps his audience wanting and filling in the gaps themselves, instead of plopping out trilogies on the go and turning every story into a love-fest.
Recommends it to: Anyone looking to have a quick read of a story which is one part murder mystery, and most parts a hidden supernatural world filled with interesting characters.
“Face your life, its pain, its pleasure, leave no path untaken.”
“If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained.”
“People want to forget the impossible. It makes their world safer.”
“You’re always you, and that don’t change, and you’re always changing, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”