Friday, November 6, 2009

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman


I really enjoyed this one. I've become a bit of a connoisseur (is that the right word, probably not since I think it implies that I know a little something about it, which I don't) of juvenile and young adult fiction. It's got a lot to do with the fact that my kids have reached that age, and it also has a lot to do with the fact that juvenile and young adult fiction seems to be the stuff that is exploding the most in the consciousness of the public these days, probably due mostly to Harry Potter's eye opening success.

Recently, though, I've read a fair amount of juvenile and young adult fiction. I read to my kids when I put them to bed as often as I can manage, which sadly is something like once every two weeks or less. I've been getting the opportunity to read books that I never got around to reading myself when I was a kid. I never read a full novel until I was about fourteen or so, so I missed a lot of good stuff. Right now, me and the kids are working our way through The Mouse And The Motorcycle.

I listened to The Graveyard Book with the thought of whether my kids would like it or not. Writing a book for kids that's about ghosts, ghouls, witches and killers is asking for it really. My kids are a timid sort, but they're not alone in that category. There's a lot of scaredy-cat kids out there. I once thought my oldest son was a bit of a wimp, but I've met some serious, no holds barred wimps in my days as a dad, which have made me realize that my son is not as bad as I once thought.

The Graveyard Book has scary parts, but if you can handle a Harry Potter novel, then you can handle The Graveyard Book. It was enjoyable for me, from beginning to end. Like many juvenile books, it was more like a collection of short stories about the same character than an actual novel. We follow the adventures of Nobody Owens as he is raised by the denizens of a graveyard. The short story-like chapters, follow Bod, as he likes to be called, from childhood to almost adulthood. It's a very different format than what you get from most adult novels, but I liked it all the same.

My only gripes were these...(by the way, if you haven't read the book, I'd skip the gripes, because they are spoiler-ific, but I had to say them, when I say, "END OF SPOILERS" it's safe to read again).

1. Bod's ghost parents are just not important characters in the book. They aren't involved in much of anything. It was all about his guardian, Silas. When the end came, and Bod said goodbye to his mother in a scene that was supposed to be touching, it felt completely hollow to me. Who was this woman? His mother? I don't remember hearing much about her the whole book through. I felt about as much when Optimus Prime mourned the death of Jazz in the first Transformers crap-stravaganza.

2. I was very disappointed with the way Scarlett was written out of the book. After meeting her as a five-year old, and then bringing her back as a teenager, she suddenly and unceremoniously runs out, moves back to Glasgow and that's that. It was not at all satisfying. It would have been better not to bring her back at all, instead introducing some new female to play her part in the second part.

END OF SPOILERS

It's safe to read again, but I don't really have much more to say. I recommend this book. I liked it even better than the last Hugo-winning Neil Gaiman novel I read. Even adults, who aren't necessarily its target audience, would enjoy this book. So if you haven't read it yet, check it out. Get the audio book, by the way, Neil Gaiman reads it himself, and of all the author's I've ever heard reading their work, he is by far, and I really mean by far, the best. He gives professional audio book readers a run for their money.

Up next? Back to the hard SF. Arthur C. Clark's 2001: A Space Odyssey. I hope this is better than the film, or you may never hear my review of it, because I will have fallen asleep at the wheel of my car, crashed, and died. I fell asleep two separate times trying to watch the film, luckily I was parked on a couch for that.

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