Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline by Neil Gaiman9780380807345

publication date: 2002
pages: 160
ISBN: 978-0-380-80734-5

Neil Gaiman’s Coraline was an extremely popular book, with several adaptions, including a movie, a graphic novel, and a musical.

The plot focused on young Coraline. As the book began, we’re introduced to her as a girl with a restless personality and nonresponsive parents:

“I’m bored,” [Coraline] said.

“Learn how to tap-dance,” [her father] suggested, without turning around.

Coraline shook her head. “Why don’t you play with me?” she asked.

“Busy,” he said. “Working,” he added. He still hadn’t turned around to look at her. “Why don’t you go and bother Miss Spink and Miss Forcible?”

Coraline’s restless energy compelled her to explore the mysterious door at the end of the hall, even though her parents told her it led nowhere. On the other side of the door, Coraline found a hallway that ushered her to an apartment that looked almost exactly like her apartment, but not. This apartment was different — more exciting — and her parents in this apartment wanted to play with her and give her whatever foods she wanted. Coraline soon discovered, however, that nothing about this other world was quite right. In fact, it was all a bit horrifying:

Her other mother and her other father were walking toward her, holding hands. They were looking at her with their black button eyes. Or at least she thought they were looking at her. She couldn’t be sure. . . .

The other father looked disappointed. The other mother smiled, showing a full set of teeth, and each of the teeth was a tiny bit too long. The lights in the hallway made her black button eyes glitter and gleam.

Coraline’s other world didn’t stay behind the door; instead, Coraline had to fight scary evil things and learn the meanings of bravery, adventure, and love.

This was a children’s book. The writing was very good – for a children’s book. Gaiman’s writing was simple, effective, and included interesting details.

According to the foreword to this edition, many people cited Coraline as the reason they got through something traumatic in their own lives. Perhaps I’m not at a relevant place in my life, but the book did not affect me very deeply. It was a good book and I would certainly recommend it to children from maybe 6 to 15, depending on their ability to handle creepy stories and illustrations; however, I wasn’t struck by it the way other adults seem to be. For a kid’s book, it’s great. Otherwise:

3/6: more good than bad

Other reviews:

The Guardian
A.V. Club
Strange Horizons (this review is also fun, because the author derides when reviewers call books “instant classics,” which is one of my review terms!)

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