13 October 2009

Book review: The Graveyard Book

Since this book was sitting on my shelf for a year, and I'd read a bunch of space opera, I thought I'd go for something different: a children's ghost story. Considering the book just celebrated a year on the NYT bestseller list, it was about time...

Neil Gaiman writes books about myths: American Gods, Anansi Boys, Stardust. His YA and children's books also have a touch of the mythic.

The Graveyard Book is about a boy named Nobody Owens, who grows up in a graveyard and is raised by ghosts. It's a retelling of The Jungle Book. In the opening chapter (and I don't consider this a spoiler), Bod's parents and older sister are murdered by the man Jack, but year-old Bod escapes, because he's a crawler, and he crawls out to the graveyard next door, where a pair of ghosts adopt him and raise him as their own. The whole graveyard chips in, actually.

Always in the background, until a turning point halfway through, is the mystery of Bod's family's murder and the man Jack. I don't want to go into detail, because Neil's revelations are wonderful and timed perfectly.

It's a story of growing up and learning who you are, and learning how to fit into your world, which is one of the main themes of children's and YA lit. It's got ghosts and werewolves and vampires and ghouls and bullies at school and a fleeting hint of romance. (It's not a kissing book, though. No worries.)

And a nice disclaimer for the FTC: I bought this book with my own money. I have no ties to Neil Gaiman, as much as I wish I did, because he's really adorable and has the dearest accent. I met him once at a signing and got him to sign a couple books (which I'd also paid for myself), and he was very nice and British, despite having 700 people to sign books for, just that night.

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