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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

The Graveyard Book

Author Neil Gaiman
Originally Published: 2008
This Edition: 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: Shannon lent me her copy

The Story

There’s this kid – Nobody Owens – and from the moment some dude named Jack murders his family when Nobody is a little baby, Nobody has lived in a local graveyard. Here, his family is a whole bunch of ghosts, his guardian is a vampire, his teacher is a werewolf, and he gets very little interaction with real human beings.

The Response

I’m a little afraid about how my response to this one is going to go over. Because a lot of people love this book. And rave about it. And are huge Neil Gaiman fangirls/fanboys. And … well, to be quite honest, I really did not like this book. I think there was a span of 5 pages where I thought to myself, “Okay! This is where the book is going to get GOOOOOOD.” Only then, after those 5 pages ended, well, it went back to being not so enjoyable.

And that makes me sad.

The story was boring. It wasn’t dark like I had expected it. It felt more like it wanted to be dark. It touched upon dark situations – suicide, for example – but pretty much just mentions them and doesn’t explore them. There wasn’t a dark atmosphere for the book, even though it takes place in a graveyard. Goodness, even death isn’t REALLY explored. Yes, there are ghosts… but it doesn’t even really talk about death.

And then the characters. Well. They were flat. There was nothing about any of them to actually make me care about them. Not Bod, not Silas, not the Owenses… the only one that held any interest to me whatsoever was the ghost witch Liza. And she was in it for very little of the book. Yes, there was massive character development throughout the book for Bod – which is to be expected considering the fact that this book takes place over the first I-don’t-know-how-many years of his life. There would have to be character development. But because each chapter takes place at a different period in Bod’s life, you don’t really SEE it happening – you just know that it did.

Bod just didn’t seem to really care about anything. When what’s-her-name was mentioning that Silas perhaps doesn’t want to tell Bod about who killed his parents, he matter-of-factly agreed that it was because he would go after the person. When he has to leave the graveyard finally, he doesn’t seem to care that he’s going to never see most of those people who were there with him his whole life. There’s no passion in him for anything – or at least anything that is shown in the book.

The Bottom Line

All in all, I found this disappointing. I had wanted to like it, but it didn’t do anything for me. Thus, would not recommend it.

Other Reviews

Mostly Harmless, The Written World, One Librarian’s Book Reviews, Things Mean a Lot, Such Stuff as Dreams are Made On, Stella Matutina, Back to Books. Have you reviewed this book on your blog? Let me know and I’ll add your link.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 6:56 am September 29, 2010.
Category: Children's
Book Author(s):

  • Shannon

    Maybe you should have read it in an Irish park. That would have increased the charm factor.

  • Nicola @ Back to Books

    I can sympathize with you. I absolutely loved this book, but with the few Neil Gaiman titles I’ve read so far it has been hit or miss with me. I either love it or am not taken with it at all. Interworld was unimpressive and I hated one of the picture books I read but I loved Coraline.

    You are lucky to have read the copy with Chris Riddell’s illustrations though. I think he’s marvelous. I only had the Dave McKean illustrated version available to me and the pictures were terrible.

    My Review

  • heidenkind

    Wow! I think yours is the only not-deliriously-in-love review I’ve read of this book. Nice to know not everyone’s crazy about it.