Title: Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Genre: Children's Literature
Summary (Off Goodreads): Coraline lives with her preoccupied parents in part of a huge old house--a house so huge that other people live in it, too... round, old former actresses Miss Spink and Miss Forcible and their aging Highland terriers ("We trod the boards, luvvy") and the mustachioed old man under the roof ("'The reason you cannot see the mouse circus,' said the man upstairs, 'is that the mice are not yet ready and rehearsed.'") Coraline contents herself for weeks with exploring the vast garden and grounds. But with a little rain she becomes bored--so bored that she begins to count everything blue (153), the windows (21), and the doors (14). And it is the 14th door that--sometimes blocked with a wall of bricks--opens up for Coraline into an entirely alternate universe.
Review: I first read this book in my Children's literature class in college and absolutely fell in love with it. Two years later, I still really love it. Neil Gaiman presents us with an interesting little girl and a scary but thrilling world that's similar to our own yet there's something not quite right about it.
Coraline is actually a little self-centered kid. She wants her parents to entertain her instead of entertaining herself, she doesn't want to eat anything she doesn't like and she does little things to rebel against her mother. Her mother has told her to stay out of the parlor. In the parlor, there's a door that goes to nowhere; it's just a bricked up wall. But one day, when Coraline opens that door, there's a hallway.
Coraline walks into a world that looks just like her own, with parents who look just like her parents except that they have buttons for eyes. The other mother feeds Coraline, plays with her and basically does everything that Coraline wants her own parents to do.
I like that Coraline, the child, ends up being the heroine of this book. She leaves this other world, knowing that something that's not quite right. However, when she gets back, her parents are missing. It's Coraline who knows that she has to go and get them (with a little help from a furry friend.)
The cat in this book is one of my favorite characters. He moves easily between worlds and he's so snarky. He's smug but in a way that it's helpful to Coraline. Somehow, she manages to endear herself to him. So, he was the one who woke her up, "telling" her that the other mother had stolen her parents (because in our world, he can't speak. Or at the very least, Coraline can't hear him) and he was the one who told her to play a game with the other mother as a way to free her own parents.
I like how self-aware Coraline becomes in this book and how you can actually see her growth. The other mother says that she'll give Coraline everything she wants. Coraline can eat what she wants and the other mother will play with her all the time. Coraline comes out and says she <i>doesn't</i> want to get whatever she wants. The point of life is that there are times when she shouldn't get what she wants otherwise it would be incredibly boring.
Inevitably, Coraline saves the souls of three children that were stuck there along with her parents. It's not often that the child saves the adults in books. Usually, it's the other way around so that switch of roles, the child as the protector, is interesting and refreshing to see.
I also like that it didn't end with Coraline's escape. The hand of the other mother escaped the other world and found its way into the real world. Coraline had to use her wits to trap the hand. I like that Coraline had to be an intelligent kid the whole time. It was very much a story about her intelligence rather than her luck. The kids aren't always the smart ones in books, often they're not, so to see a kid rely on nothing but her brains in a book was very nice to see.
I recommend this book to everyone. It's a fast read but it's a good one. Even though it's classified as children's literature, it's really a book that transcends ages.
Books so far this year: 25/75
Currently reading: The Naming by Alison Croggon
You can read this review and all others at im_writing and my Goodreads account.