Neil Gaiman’s THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is, in a word, brilliant.

The story opens as “the man Jack” prowls through a house and kills everyone but a baby. Jack searches the house for his missing prey, but the toddler has climbed out of his crib and wandered down the road, eventually sliding through a fence and ending up in a graveyard. Once inside, the child is found by ghosts of the people who are buried there. After discussing the situation, the denizens agree to care for the boy and raise him in the cemetery, even going so far as to rename him “Nobody Owens,” or “Bod” for short.

What follows is the tale of a boy’s adolescence as he struggles to fit in with the world around him. While at the cemetery, Bod learns numerous things from its residents – everything from reading and writing, to Fading (which essentially renders him invisible) and Dreamwalking (which allows him to invade people’s dreams). Yet, as Bod gets older, he starts to wonder what it is like outside the graveyard. Bod dreams of going to school to further his education and spend more time in the library. He also yearns for human contact, desiring a close friend whom he can grow up with (the ghosts, after all, stay the same age as when they died, so he quickly outgrows his childhood friends from the graveyard). And, through it all, Bod seeks to unravel the mysteries behind his arrival at the graveyard and the murder of his family.

Gaiman absolutely nails his characterization of Nobody Owens, showcasing an ability to get inside the mind of a child and make us remember what it was like to be young – to want to forge our own path in life, to mourn the loss of a close friend who moves away, to cross the threshold from adolescence to adulthood. And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the rest of the cast – the ghosts who adopt him; the not-living-not-dead guardian who watches over Bod; the werewolf who helps teach Bod; the ghouls, the snakes…..and the killers. The reader never knows who’s waiting around the corner (or behind yonder gravestone), which makes the book all the more interesting.

The story is beautifully crafted, moving gracefully from horror to humor, dark fantasy to suspense, reality to the supernatural, joyful exuberance to crushing sadness. There’s a lot going on in THE GRAVEYARD BOOK – so much so that the reader will undoubtedly be left in awe of how well Gaiman pulled it all together.

One thing worth noting is that while the book is marketed as “Young Adult,” it can ultimately be enjoyed by readers of all ages – parents should have no worries that the content is too dark or violent because Gaiman does not dwell in those places; and adults can rest assured they’ll be entertained by the combination of diverse characters, moody atmosphere, and thoughtful insight.

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK has already been awarded a Newberry Medal and a Hugo Award, and it couldn’t be more deserving of its praise. I urge you to grab a copy, and to see what all the hubbub is about.

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is available as a trade hardcover with a cover price of $17.99, but it can be had at Amazon for only $11.46.


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