The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

February 6, 2010

graveyardbook Plot summary (with spoilers): The Graveyard Book opens with a frightening murder scene. A shadowy man named Jack has just killed an entire family — except for a two-year-old toddler who had climbed out of his crib, crawled down the stairs, and ambled out the door. This was a huge mistake for Jack. He was supposed to kill everybody in the family. So he continues looking for the toddler; but it’s all in vain. The toddler ends up in the graveyard at the end of the street, where the ghost of his recently killed mother shows up and begs the ghostly inhabitants of the graveyard to look after her boy.

The toddler is “adopted” by Mr. and Mrs. Owens, who have been dead for a couple hundred years. They inexplicably call the child Nobody, or Bod for short. After meeting with Silas and other important members of the ghostly community, it’s decided that Bod will receive full privileges of the graveyard. In other words, he will be able to do almost everything that the ghosts can do — such as see in the dark, fade away, haunt people, and slip through solid objects.

The ghosts in the graveyard know that the killer is still out there somewhere, so they do their best to shelter Bod. But as Bod grows up, he longs for human companionship and wants to attend school like normal children. So Silas takes enrolls him at a nearby place, but it soon becomes obvious that Bod doesn’t fit in there and is drawing too much attention to himself. He must come back to the graveyard.

Things continue like this until Bod is 15, when Jack finally reappears. There’s a bit of a showdown, but Bod, using some smarts that he somehow picked up somewhere, is able to defeat Jack and the rest of the Jacks of All Trades. After that, the world is safe again for Bod. He begins losing his ghostly abilities, Silas gives him enough money to make a start in life, he says goodbye to his ghost pals, and joins the real world at last.

Liked:

  • I thought this was an interesting concept. A human baby being raised with ghostly abilities by ghosts in a graveyard. It could have been a terrific story, but fell, way, way short of the mark.

Disliked:

  • Well, I disliked just about everything in this book. The “action”, such as it was, was extremely slow to develop. The first three-quarters of the book were incredibly boring, and it took a lot of determination to keep moving along. Actually, all the rave reviews of this book pushed me to the end. There had to be something to it… but there wasn’t.
  • Even though Bod was the main character and was featured quite heavily throughout the novel, I never really felt like I knew him. There was a distance between him and the reader, and that made it virtually impossible for me to like him or care about what happened to him.
  • I couldn’t believe how long the Jack thread was dropped. He appeared at the beginning of the book, then we got Bod’s boring life story, and then he appeared again at the end, before being summarily dispatched by a kid who didn’t show that kind of courage or wit at any previous point in time.
  • This book reminded me too much of Harry Potter — an inferior Harry Potter, to be sure. Bod was the special baby that couldn’t be killed by an otherwise powerful enemy. Bod ended up defeating the enemy himself. He learned magical tricks, was an outcast at the regular school, etc. It probably wasn’t Gaiman’s intention to have these similarities to the most popular literary character of the last decade, but there ya go.
  • This book is considered a children’s book and is recommended for grades 5-8. Really? I can’t imagine an 11-year-old 5th grader sticking out all the boring parts of this book to get to the end. Wow.

My Rating:

I decided to read The Graveyard Book because it was on the Amazon.com list of the best 100 books of 2008. I was hoping for some a decent story and a quick, entertaining read. I got neither. This book was disjointed, uninteresting, and extremely slow-paced. I give it 2 stars out of 5.

4 Responses to “The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman”

  1. You are the only other person who agrees with me about this book and your review is spot on.

  2. Actually, you’re the only person I’ve come across (thus far) that agrees with me as well! Everyone else I know absolutely loves this book — though I can’t for the life of me figure out why.

  3. This is the first book I read of Gaiman’s and I felt a bit disappointed as well. There was a lot of potential and interesting ideas but it all falls flat in the end.

  4. you are so right i struggled just to get through the first thirty pages

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