Originally published in 2008, Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book has earned numerous awards including a Hugo for Best Novel (2009) and a Newbery Medal (2009). It has taken me a little while, but I finally got around to picking up this masterpiece and got to reading. This is a bit of a dark young adult book that really transcends age. It’s for everyone.
The story begins with a man named Jack. He had just murdered almost everyone in his chosen house, but when he looks for the smallest victim – a toddler – he finds an empty crib. The toddler had crawled out of his crib and toddled off through the door left open by Jack. The boy made it to a graveyard up the hill where he was found by a motherly resident ghost, but Jack wasn’t too far behind him. When Jack thinks he sees the baby boy in the graveyard, the ghosts of the boy’s recently murdered family appear and beg for the resident spirits to intervene and take care of their son. And that they do.
The boy is named Nobody Owens, or Bod for short. He grows up in the graveyard and enjoys “freedom of the graveyard”. Although very much alive, his spirit guardians teach him the tricks of the trade including how to fade into the shadows, how to dreamwalk, and how to walk straight through the tombs and graveyard gates. He’s raised by Mr. and Mrs. Owens and taught by Silas, his protector. Silas isn’t one of the dead, nor is he alive. It is implied that he is a vampire, although the word is never mentioned once.
As Bod gets older, he wants to learn more about the world, but Silas is against the idea. He knows more about the man Jack who killed his family. And that man Jack is still looking for the boy who got away. But Bod is persistent.
“Yes,” agreed Bod. “That’s the potential thing you were talking about.” He fell silent. then, “Someone killed my mother and my father and my sister.”
“Yes. Someone did.”
“Which means, ” said Bod, “you’re asking the wrong question.”
Silas raised an eyebrow. “How so?”
“Well,” said Bod. “If I go outside in the world, the question isn’t ‘who will keep me safe from him?'”
“No. It’s ‘who will keep him safe from me?'”
Twigs scratched against the high windows, as if they needed to be let in. Silas flicked an imaginary speck of dust from his sleeve with a fingernail as sharp as a blade. He said, “We will need to find you a school.”
He definitely doesn’t have an ordinary life. He sleeps in a crypt, knows how to greet ghosts properly from any age, is kidnapped by ghouls at one point, finds a secret crypt guarded by an ancient soul, is good friends with a dead witch, and although he has the ‘freedom of the graveyard’, he’s more of a prisoner behind the graveyard walls. That is until Jack comes back.
The Graveyard Book is a wonderful coming-of-age tale that is dark and beautiful. I really enjoyed this quick read.
The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman