November 10, 2009

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Young Adult Fiction
2008 Harper Collins
Finished on 10/25/09
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)
2009 Newberry Medal

Product Description

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.

It seems as though more and more adults are reading teen and juvenile fiction lately. Did this wave of interest begin with Harry Potter, or has it always been around and I'm just now more aware since I work in a bookstore? Marcus Zusak, Stephanie Meyers, and Suzanne Collins (to name just a few) have all generated further interest in the teen section of our store (myself included). I enjoy strong character development and suspenseful plots, as well as the creative originality of teen fiction (although, at times, the teenage angst is a tad bit annoying) and look forward to discovering more talented authors. However, I'm not sure the young reader books (Juvie Fiction) are compelling and complex enough to suit my taste. I liked Harry Potter well enough, but never did read beyond The Goblet of Fire. Earlier this year I read The Penderwicks and was only moderately entertained. It felt simplistic in content and writing style, but then why wouldn't it? Its intended audience is 9-12 year-olds. So when it came time to find a couple of quick reads to add to my stack for the recent Blogger Read-a-Thon, why did I choose Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book? Well, for starters I've never read anything by Gaiman and I thought this might be a good introduction to his works. And, I'd heard a few positive reviews for this particular title from fellow readers. But mainly I chose it because it was this year's recipient for the Newberry Award and, as I've come to know, it never hurts to have first-hand knowledge in order to offer a sincere and informed recommendation (or not) to a frantic customer during the holiday season.

While it didn't knock my socks off like The Book Thief (Zusak) or The Hunger Games (Collins) or Stargirl (Spinelli), it was entertaining and held my attention from start to finish. I came to care about Bod and his friends, and my heartstrings were gently tugged as I read the final pages. And I enjoyed the subtle nods to Harry Potter. Did I love it? Nah. But I liked it enough to want to read more by Gaiman. Maybe next time, though, I'll try something from his adult bibliography. I'm thinking maybe Good Omens (which I hear is very funny) or American Gods. I'm open to suggestions.

Lastly, let me share a favorite author's remarks on this book:

The Graveyard Book is everything everyone loves about Neil Gaiman, only multiplied many times over, a novel that showcases his effortless feel for narrative, his flawless instincts for suspense, and above all, his dark, almost silky sense of humor." -- Joe Hill, author of Heart–Shaped Box.


  1. Good Omens is definitely funny, and Stardust is a neat fairytale, but my favorite Gaiman thus far has still got to be Neverwhere, so that would be my suggestion!

  2. My favorite Gaiman is Good Omens, but I also loved Star Dust and Neverwhere. All three completely different. I have The Graveyard Book sitting on the shelf just waiting. And another Gaiman book, Anansi Boys.

  3. I think adults are reading more and more juvenile and young adult fiction because there is MORE and BETTER stuff out there. When I was a teenager, it was The Babysitters' Club and Sweet Valley High books. I can't imagine my mom wanting to read those. There weren't books like The Book Thief and Hunger Games and John Green's novels available for young adults. Those new works are smarter (because kids aren't dumb) and more complex than YA fiction used to be, so it appeals more to adults, too!

  4. I also believe that the literature for young adults is where much of the meaningful and imaginative writing is directed. Based on your comments and reviews, I think you may be interested in my new YA release, Angela 1: Starting Over. If so, you can see what it's about at

  5. glad you like the Hunger Games it is such a good book, and so is catching fire, the sequel. I am dying for book three

  6. Anonymous4:41 PM

    I feel like an idiot, but I frankly don't get all the hullaballoo about Gaiman. Sure, he's a fine writer. But, is he incredible? Unbelievable? Awe inspiring? Not, sadly, to me. I, too, wanted to read this because of the Newbery Award status, and I just don't see why it won. I liked the idea of Bod being brought up by ghosts, which in many ways is probably better than parents nowadays. I liked the atmosphere. My book club said the woman in the second half (name? who can remember?) was a werewolf, which is interesting. But, Newbery? Not in my mind.

  7. This is on my shelf to read. Sometimes I've been blown away by the Newbery Award winner and then other times I can't believe the choices!! I've read Coraline and loved it, hopefully I'll enjoy this one too.

  8. I feel much the same way you do about juvenile fiction. From a teacher's perspective I like looking for little contradictions and interesting tidbits worth teaching in my college classes. From a purely pleasure reading perspective, these book are often a little dull for me. The Graveyard Book, on the other hand, I found captivating! Neil Gaiman is one of the very few authors whose juvenile fiction I prefer to his adult fiction. Weird! I found The Graveyard Book very touching and beautifull written in spots. One of my favorite parts was the Danse Macabre:

    They took hands, the living and the dead, and they began to dance. Bod saw Mother Slaughter dancing with the man in the turban, while the businessman was dancing with Louisa Bartleby. Mistress Owens smiled at Bod as she took the hand of the old newspaper seller, and Mr. Owens reached out and took the hand of a small girl, without condescension, and she took his hand as if she had been waiting to dance with him her whole life. Then Bod stopped looking because someone’s hand closed around his, and the dance began.

  9. Well, I know that if it wasn't for book blogs I would probably not be reading any YA books! Having said that though, I do prefer to like the YA books that are I guess for the older kids. I need to get my hands on a copy of Hunger Games. I think I'm the last person who hasn't read that! :)

  10. Megan - I'll add Neverwhere to my list of possibilities. Thanks!

    Framed - It might be fun to read Good Omens so I can see what Terry Pratchett's writing is like, too.

    Lexi - You have a very good point. I remember reading books like Anne of Green Gables and My Side of the Mountain, but those are more for young readers. I'm trying to remember what I read as a teenager, but keep coming up blank. The only authors that comes to mind are Danielle Steel and Stephen King, so maybe I didn't read much YA stuff in the late '70s.

    David - Thank you for stopping by with your comment. Angela 1: Starting Over sounds interesting. I'll have to add it to my TBR list.

    BTW, my daughter graduated from TCU 3 years ago and is still living in the Texas. We were in Fort Worth (Crowley, actually) for a few years in the late '90s and I worked at the old Borders on Hulen.

    Eric - I'm looking forward to the final installment, too. Knowing there won't (or shouldn't be!) a cliff-hanger finale makes me happy. :)

    Bellezza - Having only read one book by Gaiman, I have no idea if he's "incredible, unbelievable, or awe inspiring." I didn't get that impression while reading The Graveyard Book, but maybe his other novels are more powerful. Who knows. I liked the book, but it certainly didn't wow me in the same manner as The Book Thief! Now that's a book worthy of many awards, don't you think?

    Staci - I should take a look at the other Newberry winners. I'm not sure if I've read very many, if any!

    Andi - Yes! That's it. A lot of the Juvie books I've read have felt dull and I wind up feeling impatient with the author and the writing. I wonder if I'd feel the same way about some of the classics of my childhood (Little House on the Prairie, My Side of the Mountain, Anne of Green Gables, Harriet the Spy, The Secret Garden)?

    I, too, loved the Danse Macabre!! Thanks for including that descriptive passage. Wonderful!!

    Iliana - I've enjoyed some, but not all of the YA (teen) books that I've heard about from bloggers. I guess, like any genre, we all have our own reading tastes. I really enjoyed The Hunger Games, but was pretty disappointed with Catching Fire. It would be fun to see a Top Ten list of everyone's favorite teen books and try one each month during 2010. Sounds like a challenge, eh? ;)

  11. I would probably start with Good Omens and Anansi Boys -- they are funny and enjoyable reads.

    If you're open to graphic novels, try Gaiman's Sandman series.

    I loved The Hunger Games and would have loved Catching Fire if it had not been the Games all over again -- what was the point of that? Shouldn't there have been more about the mounting revolution? I feel as if Catching Fire is a place holder between The Hunger Games and the third book.

  12. Katya - Thanks for the recs. I think I'll try Good Omens next. And maybe the graphic novel of Sandman. I've only read one graphic novel (Maus I) and enjoyed the format.

    I agree with you about Catching Fire. I wonder if we'll be satisfied with the third in this trilogy.

  13. I found Good Omens so funny that I couldn't read it in company - I was literally crying laughing - and I came to it from the angle of loving Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. There are lots of film and book references thrown into the mix ("Damian's a nice name," says the nun at the maternity hospital, for instance), including some brilliant Just William jokes - I don't know how familiar Richmal Crompton's creation is in the States?

    Of the adult books, I loved American Gods and Anansi Boys, and I did enjoy the BBC TV version of Neverwhere (the Marquis de Carabas is incredibly sexy!).

  14. Eigon - Oh, a book that makes one laugh so hard you cry is one that I must read! From what I've heard, Good Omens sounds like a great book and one that my husband and I would both enjoy. It's definitely going on my list.

    Thanks for all the recommendations and stopping by with your comment!

  15. Upon rereading my comment, I have to say I still feel largely the same about Gaiman. I wish I could have been one of his die hard fans, but how about if I just stay a fan of yours? xo

    1. And I'll stay a fan of yours. :)


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