A mysterious man sneaks into a certain house and kills all the family members except the youngest – an 18m old toddler whose name is never known – who manages to escape into a nearby graveyard. The ghosts there adopt him, name him Nobody (or “Bod” for short), and raise him the best they know how. Because Bod is adopted by spirits, he walks the line between the living and the dead, and can see things that most living creatures can’t see. As he grows up, he starts to realize his life is anything but normal, but when he tries to interact with the world outside the graveyard, he discovers danger beyond the cemetery’s borders. The man who tried to kill him as a baby is still out there, and time is running out.
I loved it. Just loved it! This is my new favorite Gaiman book, topping Stardust, which I read during April’s readathon. It was so much fun to read, the illustrations were gorgeous, and all the various plotlines were well tied up at the end. One of the qualms I tend to have with Gaiman’s books is that the endings are too neat, or too easy for the characters. The obstacles they have to overcome are rarely hard ones, at least in the books I’ve read. But I didn’t feel like that in The Graveyard Book. Bod has to battle some pretty scary monsters/people, he has to learn about himself and grow while he does so, and he loses some important things in the process. It’s balanced and fair.
What an excellent book! So good that after I was done reading, I immediately handed it over to my 9 year old so he could read it before I had to take it back from the library. Of course, one might wonder about my parenting skills when I hand off a book dealing with murder, ghosts, and monsters to my young children. However, there was nothing morbid, gory, or terribly scary about The Graveyard Book. It wasn’t cutesy by any stretch of the imagination, but it was definitely a children’s book. It had just the right atmosphere for Halloween, fun and adventurous without me having to worry about giving my son nightmares (like Coraline did).
Last year, I decided I was very on the fence about Gaiman. I enjoyed Coraline (the first thing I read by him) but hated American Gods (read right afterwards). I didn’t try him again until Stardust, which was excellent. Now, I love The Graveyard Book. For awhile I thought maybe I just enjoyed his young adult and younger books, but I think I’ve gained enough confidence now to go try Anansi Boys. Hopefully my second experience with his adult books will squash the bad experience with American Gods!