This is a YA offering by the author of Coraline. It was awarded the 2009 Newberry Award, 2009 Hugo Award, and 2010 Carnegie Medal. I mention Coraline because it seems to be closest in genre and style to The Graveyard Book of Gaiman’s extensive portfolio of adult and YA novels, screenplays, comics, and picture books.
I picked it up at my school library before holiday break, on the recommendation of a friend, who has read Gaiman’s work in other genres.
The protagonist, a boy who comes to be called “Bod”, short for “Nobody”, is raised by the ghostly inhabitants of a cemetery, after the murder of his parents and sister by a man known only as “Jack”. He comes to the cemetery as an infant, and his caretakers do their best to educate and entertain him as he grows older, always reminding him that the world outside of the graveyard is too dangerous for him, as “Jack” has continued to search for him.
I enjoyed the book and felt that the whole of the plot was unique, so I’ll forgive any early similarities to a certain “boy who lived”. There were plenty of plucky orphans in epic struggles BEFORE Ms. Rowling birthed the boy wizard, and there are sure to be more still. In The Graveyard Book, the similarities end at Bod’s entrance into the graveyard.
I love a good cemetery, and the last novel I read that was based in one was Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger, who, coincidentally, Gaiman mentions in the acknowledgements for The Graveyard Book.
Artist and author Audrey Niffenegger is also a graveyard guide, and she showed me around the ivy-covered marvel that is Highgate Cemetery West.”
I particularly enjoyed Gaiman’s detailed descriptions of the graveyard, a world within it own fenced boundaries, and its colorful characters. The interred of many generations make guest appearances and add the perspective of their place in time to Bod’s education.
The only real complaint I had was with the revelation of Jack’s motives, which I found a little improbable (“improbable” in a fantasy book is not anything new, I guess I mean “improbable” in the context of the rest of the book). No spoilers, here; just know that, if you find that part to be awkward, you’re not alone.
On the whole, very entertaining, and I’m looking forward to reading some of Gaiman’s other work.
By the way, the web page for his YA readers is www.mousecircus.com — love the name, of course! Check it out for interviews and extras for The Graveyard Book.