Review: The Graveyard Book
So, Neil Gaiman has become a household name. At least he is in mine. And by household I mean me sitting on my couch and g-chatting with my friend while my one lonely plant waves its leaves around as it is the only other living thing in my apartment. Unless you count my computer. I usually do since I believe it has exhibited on numerous occasions that it hates me, and we all know you can’t be a hater if you aren’t alive (or unalive as the case may be).
Where was I? Oh right, Neil Gaiman. I talk about Neil Gaimon, I post pictures of him in a TARDIS (also you should check out MY TARDIS! sorry, but I had to), however, until recently I had never read any of his work. LE GASP, you say. I know, I know. But as my friend said, after I acknowledged this truly horrendous geeky faux pas, I’m my own kind of geek. So all is forgiven. I mean she even forgives me when I get my its and it’s mixed up. They just make her sneeze occasionally.
But I was feeling awful, poor Neil Gaiman writing one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who ever and he never had the pleasure of me as his reader. Alas, unable to sleep at night thinking about his sighs of longing for yet another fan, and after reading a delightful review by Stephanie at Read in a Single Sitting, I decided I would graciously add another reader to the long list of avid Neil Gaiman readers. Plus, every thing I’ve ever read or heard about the guy makes him sound like a top-notch man, and seeing as there is often a dearth of them (I’m sure Neil Gaiman never stands on the left side of the elevator), I picked up The Graveyard Book from my local library.
What a delightfully morbid beginning to a book. Baby Nobody Owens, climbs out of his crib, looses his diaper, and finds his way out the front door while his family is being murdered. Nobody Owens (aka Bod) finds his way to a graveyard where he is taken in by the Owenses. . . . yah, Owenesesess. Anyway. Bod grows up with a special pass to the graveyard called, The Freedom of the Graveyard, and with his special ability to interact with the ghost Bod has an interesting childhood to say the lease. As Bod grows older he realizes that he has a special destiny mixed up in magic, other worlds, and the man who almost murdered him. Yet, he longs to leave the graveyard and explore other worlds taught to him by his teachers Silas and Mrs. Miss Lupescu (can you guess what kind of creature she is from her name?). Then the man who murdered Bod’s family comes looking for him.
It is no wonder that this book won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Novel, Newbery Medal, and Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book, as well as the 2010 Carnegie Medal. Like all good children’s stories the parents are gotten rid of right away. After all, where is the breathtaking heartache of a well-adjusted, cared-for child? It reminded me of all the times my siblings and I used to play “Orphans.” No one ever wanted to pretend to be a grown-up. Though I was often chosen to be the crying mother as I was the oldest (this was even caught on video tape a time or two alas), but the most fun was had when our parents were “gone” and we were just wild minions climbing trees in skirts, eating raw corn from the garden (which oddly enough was planted by our parents), and overcoming the hardship of living life without parental guidance . . . until it was time for dinner. Maybe this is why I found Bod quite a lovable character. I enjoyed reading about his adventures from infancy until adulthood, that being the ripe old age of 15. His thoughts and actions were so relatable, despite the unusual setting. Bod agonized over what every person does growing up, where does he fit in the world? Is it easier to stay in the graveyard and watch the ghosts of our childhood fade from us or should we take that step off sacred ground and see where our adventures take us?
Gaiman’s prose is not only profound, engaging, and award worthy, but it is full of humor, love, and a kind of earthiness (pun intended) in spite of the supernatural setting. Silas, a being neither alive nor dead, is young Bod’s mentor and guide, easing Bod through the years of self discovery (no not that way, it’s a children’s book!) and pushes him forward into adulthood when Bod needs to be pushed. I love Silas and I really wish there was a prequel to this book based on Silas’ part in the order the supernatural underworld in the universe created by Gaiman. Furthermore, I wish there was a sequel to the book which explores Bod’s adventures after the graveyard. Basically, I fell in love with the world presented in this book, I’m very happy I picked up The Graveyard Book and shared in the adventures of Bod. It brought back memories of my own childhood, and ones that I didn’t mind remembering, which was quite delightful. While a definite children’s book, the story and themes explored by Gaiman reach into the heart and touch it.
OK, that sounds kind of gross. But you know what I meant.
I’ll leave you with my favorite bit of the book.
At the best of times his face was unreadable. Now his face was a book written in a language long forgotten, in an alphabet unimagined. Silas wrapped the shadows around him like a blanket, and stared after the way the boy had gone, and did not move to follow.