Before I even begin to write about this book, I would like to preface this with the fact that I have not read a book – and I mean, really read, whether it was forced or for enjoyment – since high school. And that was a good few years ago, as I have graduated from college and have been employed for a few years now. I used to love reading, as it was a way to escape from reality (and no, mine was definitely a normal life, but fantasy was so much more exciting!) but as I aged, I told myself I didn’t have time to really read and started supplementing my entertainment with trashy, reality tv instead.
So why start with Coraline, of all books?
I have no idea. Since the beginning of the year, I started taking a good look at the books that I currently had in my possession and started to add more, both physical and digital. I kept telling myself that I would read this one, or that one, or whichever one I happened to purchase that day. But I never did. I just couldn’t force myself to pick up a book and start reading. And anyways, I didn’t want to forcemyself to do anything. After all, I’m doing this to better myself and to gain a better understanding of writing and reading and ease myself back into doing something that I had enjoyed before.
So I randomly stumbled upon Coraline, the book. I have a Blu-ray copy of Coraline, (the movie) and I can honestly say that it’s one of my favorite movies. I think it says something (though I’m not sure if it’s a positive thing) that an adult could enjoy that movie so much. But I grew up with The Nightmare Before Christmas, so I thought it fitting. So when I really thought about it, I wanted to see what the novel was about.
Just how was it different from this movie that I liked?
And after reading it, would I find myself liking the book more, or hating it?
What I’ve generally found is that if you have grown fond of the movie, when you read the book that the movie is based on, a lot of times people don’t like it as much. So I was assuming that I would not enjoy the book. Because I said, people like one or the other. Never both. And nobody ever changes his or her mind about which one is better, right?
And finally, the plot thickens and I start talking about the book. It took long enough.
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“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” – G. K. Chesterton
So. Coraline the book. It’s a very interesting book, and the movie does do it justice. However, there are many subtle differences that the movie just was unable to capture from the book which make the book much more enjoyable. And as a 24-year-old who is fairly educated and has enjoyed reading various types of books in the past, I was very skeptical about reading a book that was aimed at young adults.
What’s surprising about the way this book is written is the fact that even though it’s not a difficult read, Neil Gaiman writes it so well that I don’t feel like I’m reading a book that’s meant for a ten year old (and even if it is, I don’t care). It’s like when you listen to someone telling a story, and they’re really good at it. It doesn’t matter if the context of the story is essentially meant as a bedtime story for a child; this person executes it so well, that you find yourself enjoying it too. That’s the same way that this book is like. You can pick it up and be fourteen or you could be forty, it’s still enjoyable. And I really liked that.
So… I’ve talked about how the structure of the book was set up, writing wise. What else is left?
The story itself?
All the important little bits?
What’s interesting is that one of the parts of the book that resonated with me the most wasn’t even in the story itself, but it was in the forward that Neil had written for the book. (I purchased the 10th annivesary edition for my Nook, btw.) He wrote:
“Being brave meant you were scared, really scared, badly scared, and you did the right thing anyway.”
And I thought that was very interesting. And I wondered why he brought this up and how well it would relate to the story of Coraline. In fact, it was probably the most influential theme that was carried throughout the entire book. The idea of bravery. Of being brave. Of reading about a little girl who has to save her parents from the clutches of an evil monster when she was so scared, she didn’t even know what to do. Neil was able to write about Coraline and about bravery in a way that not only made it seem so realistic, but also relatable. This isn’t a story about someone who rushes into battle or isn’t afraid of anything. It’s a story that shows how someone can conceivably be scared of something they’re up against and that no matter how hopeless it seems, it’ll be ok in the end. That’s an amazing responsibility of a child in a book to pull along.
Yes, I enjoyed the book. A lot more than I expected to. I’m actually worried that reading this book will ruin my enjoyment of other books, because now all I’m hoping to read are stories where the main character overcomes crazy obstacles, but somehow do it realistically. Well, as realistic as you could get in a fantasy world.
Small fun fact that I enjoyed about the book – I really liked Neil’s explanation about how he created Coraline in the first place. That he meant to write Caroline and that he made a typo, and then he kept it because he wanted to know more about this Coraline character and what type of adventures she would get in. Sometimes, the writers are just like the readers. They want to know how the story goes and how it ends too because they have no idea what’s going to happen when the story begins.
The Boring Stuff:
Approximate Time It Took To Read – a little less than a week, on and off
Book Medium – Digital e-book, purchased off Barnes and Noble for my Nook
Would I Recommend This Book – Definitely. Yes. Of course. Go read it.