The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The first of my Young Adult lit class reads and I feel like I've stepped off on the right foot!
Bod has grown up in the graveyard ever since the murder of his parents. After his escape, he's adopted by a set of ghosts and a mysterious guardian, Silas, only prepared with the knowledge that a man named Jack is out to get him. Bod has many adventures with ghosts and ghouls within the graveyard, but also many encounters with the criminal minds of humans in the real world. Specifically, an outing with a new friend Scarlett may forever change his life in the ways that he thinks he knows it.
Having read "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman, (and not being a fan), I was hesitant to read this Newberry winner simply for the absurdity that could be served within the fantasy genre. However, considering that it was also a Newberry winner, may have persuaded me to go at it, instead of choosing another young adult pick for my class. Gaiman constructs a fantasy world that we encounter within our everyday reality; the graveyard is indeed mysterious and at some times, creepy. Furthermore, his character of Nobody "Bod" Owens, is a young boy who is trying to deal with the fact that all of his family members are the deceased visions that exist within this ghastly setting. Bod is still adventuresome, finding trouble behind unmarked headstones and down deep dark caverns, and all of these tales are somehow supposed to set him up for the encounter with Jack--the killer of his mortal family-- when he becomes older.
My issue was that the suspense was always building up to it and although it did indeed deliver us to a delightful twist, it dropped off after that. Bod does indeed encounter Jack, but after that, well.... I feel like it had much more potential with this plot line, considering that it was the one that I was focused the most on. My other, more subservient, issue is the context of using a graveyard as a setting. Yes, we have ghosts, crypts, headstones, ghouls, chants, and most of all--stories! I loved hearing all of the stories, but I felt like Gaiman kept trying to get them to all connect, even though they didn't actually or necessarily need to. Furthermore, what was the deal with Silas? His job is to Bod's guardian, yet he is neither mortal, nor dead. Help someone? Because this is the thing that I'm remembering most from this book and it shouldn't be.
As a teacher, I'd recommend this book to a young reader who was fascinated with the supernatural and wanted something different to read. It does have potential to be openly criticized by a large, younger audience, which is what I think Gaiman's goal was to achieve. Bod is a character who constantly asks how things work, and I feel like the readers will do the exact same.
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