Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review: Coraline - Neil Gaiman

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Genre: Middle Grade, horror
Published on August 4, 2002
Published by HarperCollins
Pages: 162
Read From: 11.22.11 - 11.24.11

When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous. But there's another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go. Coraline will have to fight with all her wits and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.


I saw the movie before I read the book, and I'm neither happy nor unhappy that I did. I've rarely said this, but this story is one those where I liked aspects in the movie better, and I liked aspects of the book better. In many ways, the movie was more sinister, but in other ways, the book was darker. In any case, there is no denying that Coraline is creepy. So Neil Gaiman was successful in that instance, and I tip my hat to him. I wouldn't say the book will give you nightmares - if you're a really young kid, it might; the movie certainly will, - but it will make you shiver pleasantly under your covers, and you might have an issue with buttons for a while afterward. I don't normally like nightmarish-quality stories, but I have to admit that there was something about Coraline - in both the book and the movie - that I liked. It's not demonic or Satanic, and while it certainly is weird, it's a weirdness that works and has a purpose in the story.

There's also the fact that it plays upon a thought we've all had some point in our life, be it when we were five years old and in a rather cross mood because our mom said we couldn't have any ice cream, or when we were seventeen and our dad said we had to be home at a certain hour. At some point, we've thought: wouldn't it be nice if there was another house, with another mother and father who always gave us what we wanted, who cooked our favorite foods, and who let us go out to a late-night movie? And Coraline presents us with this "what if" - and then shows us that something that seems absolutely perfect, there is usually a heavy price. Scary to think about, right? But kind of a fun scary.

The only really big flaw I saw in Coraline was the fact that our heroine, Coraline, seems to take things as they come pretty benignly. Oh, the book says she's scared and she's putting on a brave face, but come on - any child who walked through a door and met a person with button eyes is going to either scream and back up several steps really rapidly. And after all the bad things that happen to Coraline, when a creepy crawly hand comes scratching at her window, Coraline goes back to sleep! Sorry, but no child would react to a hand at the window like that.

So, a heroine who is as cool as a cucumber about things is my main complaint. Other than that, I liked this creepy dark story, and while it may not sound like your cup of tea, I would encourage you to pick it up sometime and just give it try. You may be surprised.

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