To be honest, I’m pretty impressed with myself. This is my fourth Book Club Thursday since I started this trip and the first time I haven’t finished reading a new book.
But it is Book Club Thursday, and I have not yet finished The Virgin Suicides. Fortunately, with all the driving I’ve been doing, I have been listening to audiobooks, and I recently finished listening to Coraline by Neil Gaiman.
My first observation is that all audiobooks should be read by their authors or by someone with a British accent. Neil Gaiman’s voice was perfect for the tone of the story.
As for the story itself, I had trouble turning it off when I parked the car. I’d forgotten how much I loved Coraline as a character: she’s a child, yes, but it’s clear that Gaiman respects both her and his audience.
Furthermore, the Other Mother is a truly scary enemy. She starts by offering Coraline everything she ever wanted, which makes her just enticing enough to give her power. When Coraline doesn’t buy into it immediately, she becomes more threatening, taking away Coraline’s choices. When she finds she can’t get away, Coraline has to challenge the Other Mother in order to win her freedom and save the souls that came before her.
Coraline is curious, adventurous, hopeful, and determined. Basically she is the best that childhood has to offer. She learns something on her quest, causing her to develop as a character without growing out of those wonderful traits that make her someone readers can emulate. On the way to her happy ending, the adventure is actually creepy. It goes back to Gaiman’s refusal to underestimate his readers. Just because it is intended for a young audience, he doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He isn’t afraid to tell a high-stakes scary story.
Coraline can be misleading. It’s short and written on a 5th grade reading level. But even though it’s easy to read, it’s well-written, with imagery and characterization that enhances the overall tone of fear and adventure. And with Neil Gaiman reading, the audiobook made these things even more potent.
If you’re looking for a Halloween read, Coraline is the book for you. I recommend the audiobook too.