Reread and Review: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

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October is the perfect time of the year to curl with a book of a certain horrific nature. Ghouls, ghosts, gore, and things that go bump in the night that are guaranteed to send a shiver down your spine or sleeping with the light on. Just for the one night of course.

There’s just one problem though with that for me— I’m not much of a horror fan.

Whether it comes to books, movies, or TV shows, horror just isn’t my thing. It has less to do with being squeamish and more to do with horror as a genre just doesn’t keep my attention for long, or the characters are all idiots who are too stupid to live. If you’re really into horror (which is completely alright), never watch a horror movie with me because I will start riffing on it. You have been warned.

Yet there is one book that has a creepy Halloween vibe (there’s a reason I can never look at a Lalaloopsy doll without suspicion) and manages to keep my attention— Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

Coraline was published in 2002 by English author Neil Gaiman, and a movie was made in 2009— though my review is entirely focused on the book. Despite generally writing books aimed at an older audience, Coraline is instead aimed at a much younger one. In fact, when I first picked it up years ago, it was in the children’s section of my local library.

Coraline can best be described as as a slightly older and darker version of Alice in Wonderland or a more modern version of a Grimm fairy-tale. It’s about a young girl named Coraline (not Caroline) who has just moved to a new house with her parents. The house being rather large, has other tenants— a man who lives upstairs and is training mice— and two older woman who used to be actresses.

Not too long into her new home Coraline finds a mysterious door that supposedly leads to nowhere. Upon closer inspection it leads to the Other World, with other versions of the building tenants, and parents who are far more attentive than her own. Everything seems perfect, except for the fact her Other Parents have buttons for eyes, and are eager to give her a pair of her own. When she refuses, her real parents go missing, it’s up to Coraline to find them, and outsmart her Other Mother.

The Good

Coraline, is a quick and easy read due to its intended audience, and there are no real major twists. However it can still be enjoyed by an older audience with a few lines and references (such as a certain Scottish play that can’t be named) that my younger self didn’t catch through the first read through. Depending on who you are this could be a good thing or a bad one. Personally, as long as the story is entertaining, I don’t care about the length.

Like I pointed out earlier, Coraline can be compared to Alice in Wonderland, and like Alice in Wonderland, it has a talking cat that talks more in riddles than sense, and helps the main character. The Cheshire Cat has always been one of my favorite characters from the book, and the Cat (for only humans need names) is probably my favorite character from Coraline due to his sarcastic and snarky personality.

The Not So Good

Aside from the Cat, the characters can be kind of flat and boring, including Coraline herself who can be annoying, but I can see why. The book is aimed at a younger audience and characters in children’s literature can be simpler. Also, because the story revolves around Coraline, we see the characters through her eyes. As a pre-teen, Coraline acts likes a pre-teen, seeing her parents as merely boring parents who work too much and don’t spend time with her. But as the book goes on, she gradually starts to grow up and mature, realizing she’s being unfair to them. So while the characters might be annoying, because I understand why, they’re not intolerable.

My only other issue with the book is the ending. The book seems to have a natural spot where it could end. Instead, there’s a few more chapters and one more thing for Coraline to deal with. There are two bits of foreshadowing, but if it wasn’t for those two brief lines, it could be removed from the book without issue. It feels like it was just sort of tacked on in order to make the book slightly longer.

Does the Book Hold Up?

Yeah? It was never one of my most beloved books, but I didn’t dislike it either. The same remains true today. I did enjoy it, but it’s not one of my favorites. Honestly if it wasn’t for this review, I probably wouldn’t have reread it. If you haven’t checked it out yet and like a spooky story, or are looking for a good book for children to read, I definitely say give it a chance. I realize my review is rather short and brief, but that’s how the book was, short and brief.

Next month due to NaNoWriMo, there will be no Reread and Review. In December I’m going to feature a modern day Christmas classic.

Agree with my review? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.

—Kay S. Beckett

 

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