Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

x300Publication Date: September 30, 2008

A toddler wanders into a graveyard after his family is brutally murdered, saving him from death. There, he is adopted and raised by the ghosts and supernatural creatures who live within the graveyard.

As he grows up, Nobody Owens learns to balance his life in the graveyard with his desire to see the outside world. No one knows he lives there, and he is safe from the man who killed is family - the man who is still trying to kill him.


Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Date Read: December 31, 2017

This was the first Neil Gaiman book I ever picked up, though I had watched Coraline a couple of years ago. I've heard a lot of good things about his writing, so I jumped at the chance to read this when I saw it at the library.

I knew pretty much nothing when I started the book, I didn't even read the synopsis. Somehow, that meant I didn't realize that there were illustrations that started off each chapter. It was a really nice surprise, and I looked forward to seeing what illustrations would come next. The art isn't really what I'm drawn to, but it did match the tone of the book really well.

I read most of the book in one sitting as I finished it before the clock struck midnight and 2018 began. The pacing of the story allowed me to speed through it quite easily and still grasp everything that was going on. It made for a very enjoyable last book of 2017, and pushed me one book over my 2017 Goodreads goal.

The plot is fairly simple, but it handles the process of growing up very well. Nobody, known mostly as Bod, does his best to learn while he lives in the graveyard. When you're surrounded by people who died decades ago, one can imagine that their idea of education would be a little different. And there's the challenge of not being able to leave the graveyard because someone is trying to kill Bod. All of these elements come together really well to make for an interesting story.

There isn't a whole lot of action throughout the book, but when there is, it's very well written and flows well with the rest of the story. The problem I've had with some middle grade books is that their actions scenes aren't always very well written, or sometimes feel very different from the rest of the book. However, the action scenes in this book match the rest of the story very well. They also move the story forward effectively and do a good job of pulling together parts of the story that we never realized were connected.

By the time I got to the last few chapters of the book, I was flipping pages quickly to find out how the book would end. Everything was coming together so nicely and I was piecing together things that had been subtly planted in the back of my mind. Suddenly, so many things made sense and I got the whole story all at once. And when I got to the end, there was a sense that I had done just as much as Bod had to get to the end of the story.

I really liked Bod. He's a curious kid who isn't afraid to ask questions or make friends with the other ghosts in the graveyard. He's also very understanding about living in the graveyard, even if he doesn't always understand or agree with his adoptive family.

Silas was another of my favorite characters. Though he didn't appear very much throughout the book, I was always happy to see him and hear what he would teach Bod.

4 stars. I would recommend this book as more of an upper middle grade story. It strikes me as something more easily understood by someone around the age of 15 than kids who usually fit into the middle grade age range. There are themes in here that I think might go over the head of younger kids, but if you think you know someone who would understand the story, I think it's a good book to give as a present.


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