17 May 2009
Book Review: Coraline
Author: Neil Gaiman
Published: 2003 Pages: 162
Genre: Young Adult Literature
Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid
Coraline is the story of a young adventurer who finds her way into a sinister alternate version of her own reality. In this reality she has other parents, an other room, and other neighbors, all of which are more interesting than her real life. She is told she could have what she wanted when she wanted it and life would always be interesting. But as Coraline says, "What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted?"
I think what I enjoyed most about this story was Gaiman's minimalist style of writing. Much is left to the imagination of the reader, which if done artfully, can increase the enjoyment of a book. It was strange for the motivations of the "other" mother to never be questioned though. And what is that cat? These unanswered questions annoyed me a bit. At the same time, it was a new experience to read a protagonist who just accepted the things that were happening to her without delving into the often times inexplicable psychology and history that provide the motivation for the plot.
In the Why I Wrote Coraline section at the back of the book, it says: "children experienced it as an adventure, but [it] gave adults nightmares." I find this quote intriguing and not altogether unbelievable. Coraline was begun for Gaiman's five year old daughter and finished years later for his six year old daughter. My first instinct would be to say the book is too scary for such a young age. Thinking back on my own childhood, though, tells me I'm wrong. Afterall, "Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be slain." Adults, on the other hand, when they read a story like this, are reminded that dragons might not be so imaginary. I think that's the problem. We grow up and being rational people, discount all of the old myths about dragons, fairies, witches, and the such not, and because of this, we can be more frightened by these stories.