The Graveyard Book from Neil Gaiman is a charming, middle-grade, coming-of-age story. I listened to the full-cast audiobook, and followed along via ebook.
Nobody Owens (called Bod by his friends) is a human, orphaned boy who just happens to live in a graveyard. His adoptive parents are ghosts, and his guardian is a mysterious man who’s actually more of a presence than something solid.
Gaiman imagines the relevant concerns in a young boy’s life—fitting in, going to school, having a first crush, and figuring out how to grow up. But the twist of Bod’s unique set of family and friends is fun and a little spooky.
If you know me, you may remember that coming-of-age tales aren’t typically my thing. Nor do I like most non-adult books. Strangely, I tend to prefer middle-grade books to young adult.
YA often has romantic story lines that I just can’t stomach, but middle-grade feels more innocent to me. Although our hero in The Graveyard Book has a girl he’s sweet on, there’s no drama surrounding them. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of other mystery and drama, which made it an enjoyable read!
I’ve also had mixed experiences with Gaiman’s books. I loved his nonfiction, The View from the Cheap Seats. But I didn’t enjoy his adult fantasy tale, Neverwhere. So I was eager to see where this younger-angled story would fall on the continuum of reviews.
Bod is an enchanting kid, whose everyday feelings mesh with his experience of otherness and other dimensions. The theme is squarely in the realm of mystery and the fine line between life and death. The audiobook is lovely, with Gaiman reading the narrator part and others voicing various characters. I’d encourage adults to read or listen first and determine whether it’s a fit for your kids. It might not be okay for every kid. However, it’s a solid pick for me!