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30 June 2010 @ 12:44 am
Book Review: "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman  
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins; 1St Edition edition (September 30, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0060530928
ISBN-13: 978-0060530921

Synopsis:
Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy.

He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead.

There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy - an ancient Indigo Man beneath the hill, a gateway to a desert leading to an abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer.

But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack - who has already killed Bod's family...

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic CORALINE. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.

My Review:
The story synopsis sounds like a fantastic story. The opening is full of intrigue that leaves one to wonder just why the man Jack needs to kill Bod's family. And the very thought of ghosts raising a child in a graveyard is a page turner, not to mention Silas, the mysterious guardian that belongs to neither world.

Yes, Neil Gaiman created a lot of potential. He could have written a great page turner.

Instead, he wrote The Graveyard Book.

The story reads very much like random adventures that occur within Bod's time at the graveyard with little known connection to the story until the climax where all of his adventures become lessons or experience he uses to outwit the enemies. If the adventures had seemed a little more necessary perhaps I would have remembered what happened in them all rather than a simple handful.

There is no real indication as to how Bod is able to learn how to act like a ghost other than the fact he's friend of the graveyard. OK, so that could be true, but Bod is able to use his powers outside the graveyard as well. Explain that.

If you're looking for Silas' actions - or even what he is - you'll have to go ask Mr. Gaiman himself or write your own story. We do in fact get a name for his job title, but as to what he actually does...

The enemies - the very names of them - have enormous potential as well. Unfortunately, they are underdeveloped and seemed to be rushed. The entire conclusion is rather anticlimactic due to confusion and things left unexplained. A prophecy is thrown in at the conclusion that makes it seem more like a crutch or excuse than a real reason to kill Bod and his family.

As for the Sleer being a menace, I'm not really sure how a creature saying "we wait for the master to return" is really a menace. It did nothing. It did not even try to get rid of Bod and his friend when they visited where they lived or when Bod took their brooch. How is that menacing?

There's also little explanation as to why Bod has to forget his family and friends at the graveyard. Sure, it may mean he's a little less strange, but they are the only family he has known. Yet he shows little remorse at leaving them. The only way the ending could be more disappointing would be if Bod woke up and found it to be all a dream. In fact, I'm not entirely sure it wasn't...

Overall, The Graveyard Book was disappointing. The synopsis made it seem so much more exciting, and being the first book I've read by Neil Gaiman, I was looking forward to seeing what he was all about since he receives so much praise. Unfortunately, I shouldn't have started with this one. Let's hope the next book I read by Mr. Gaiman is a little more thought out.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars for amazing potential but failing to follow through. Perhaps he rushed this one.

x-posted here.