The Down and Dirty
Young Coraline isn't all that happy with her life. Her parents work too much and, as young children are wont to be, she's bored. But when she discovers her alternate life behind a hidden door, she begins to think that her real life isn't so bad. Evil lurks behind every corner as Coraline tries desperately to regain her "old" life.
The Literary Criticism
Advertised for ages eight and up, Coraline is, for all intents and purposes, a horror book for kids. Scary, but without the gore.
And although I haven't interviewed any eight year olds on the matter, I suspect Gaiman largely succeeds in scaring the pee out of them. The alternate world Coraline stumbles into strangely mirrors her own, containing another set of parents who, despite their outward declarations of love and devotion, don't seem quite right. (Black buttons instead of eyes are a pretty big clue here.)
The alternate world Gaiman creates is quite well thought-out. And while the themes of the novella may not be original, the conveyance of it certainly is.
As rich as the plot is, however, there is something lacking in Coraline. We know she is a kind girl and even quite a smart girl. But that's about all we ever get to know. Ultimately, she's rather one-dimensional in a cardboard cutout sort of way. Perhaps this was by design, but I missed getting to know Coraline.
Hmmmmm. Here's the brutal truth: the thrill just wasn't happening for me. By no means is this an awful book. It won a Hugo Award, a Nebula Award, and the Bram Stroker Award.
I read it. I didn't hate it.
But neither am I running out and buying copies for every kid I know.
Maybe I missed something. It's been known to happen.
I do, however, have high hopes for the forthcoming film version.
While A Reader's Respite chose to purchase a copy of Coraline, you can read it for free courtesy of Harper Collins.
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Other Thoughts on Coraline from Blogland
Crescent Moon Reviews
Musings of a Bibliophile
Children's Book Reviews and Then Some
Life More Abundantly
Marny the Bookworm