A blog to keep up on what's happening for teens at Brooks Memorial Library including: • new books • events • resources available • fun website suggestions • ... and more.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Book Review: Coraline

by Neil Gaiman

My first introduction to Neil Gaiman was when I read Good Omens, which had been a collaborative project between him and Terry Pratchett. As a result, I was confused as to which one was the "funny author." I first investigated Gaiman's work and discovered that he was not a humorous writer. But his dark, otherworldly style of writing was very intriguing and I

quickly became a fan. One of his most well-known books, Coraline, has been made into an
animated film that will be arriving in theaters this year. For that reason, I thought I would share the story and my thoughts on it for anyone else who is, or will be, a Neil Gaiman fan.

Coraline is a young girl with a boring life and a thirst for exploration. She and her parents have recently moved to a new apartment, and Coraline starts exploring the house and its other tenants, all of whom are fairly quirky and hint at a danger that Coraline doesn't understand. When her mother and father are away for the day, Coraline unlocks a door in that only
opens into a brick wall...except that this time, it leads into an eerie copy of her home. She even finds two people who are just like her parents, but have black buttons for eyes. They give her delicious food, a room full of toys, and a troupe of black rats entertain her. Her alternate neighbors have a theater with talking animals. However, Coraline feels uneasy about
her alternate parents when they want to replace her eyes with black buttons. She returns to her old home, but her real parents never return from their respective errands. Soon, Coraline realizes that they have somehow become trapped in the alternate world. Now Coraline has to return to that world and confront the danger there in order to rescue her family.

Anyone who has ever been frustrated with their parents will relate to this coming-of-age story. Imagine a very dark version of Alice in Wonderland, with a few significant differences. Instead of falling through a rabbit hole, a bored little girl opens a door into a "looking-glass" world. Instead
of charming and enigmatic characters, she meets menacing and deceitful ones. Like Alice and the Queen of Hearts, Coraline and her alternate-world mother go head to head for her parents' freedom. There is also a theme of mothers and daughters, which is a Gaiman trademark. Coraline's real mother doesn't seem to listen to or understand her. The alternate mother loves Coraline like a possession, and wants her complete obedience in exchange for giving her everything she wants. Coraline has to decide which kind of love she is happiest with, and whether or not getting everything she wants is worth the sacrifice.

Although the plot and imagery are often unsettling, it is not so much a horror story as a dark, cautionary fairy tale. The moral is that children often think they want one thing (whether it's more indulgent parents, fewer rules, or more toys) and realize soon enough that it isn't what they want at all. It also features a brave and clever female heroine who must rely mostly
on her own wits in order to rescue her parents and avoid being trapped by her evil alternate mother. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the style of Neil Gaiman or wants to become familiar with his work before seeing the movie adaptation of Coraline.

Reviewed by Nell Curley

Labels: ,