Monday, October 13, 2008

Coraline: Review

Book: Coraline
Author: Neil Gaiman
Category: Young Adult
Series: No

Coraline is the story of a young girl named Coraline Jones. Her family had just moved into a old home that has been converted into flats. With both her parents busy with work and having little time for her, Coraline finds herself very bored. She tries to fill up her days by exploring the grounds of the old house, and with visiting her neighbors. Miss Spink and Miss Forcible are two old ladies that used to be actresses. They drink tea with Coraline while telling her of their theatre days. Mr. Bobo lives up stairs and trains mice. Her neighbors, while nice, are really no better than her parents when it comes to listening to her, they even call her Caroline, not Coraline, though she has corrected them many times.

On on particularly boring day, Coraline tells her father that she has nothing to do. He suggests that she explore the flat.
"Count all the doors and windows. List everything blue. Mount an expedition to discover the hot water tank. And leave me alone to work."
Coraline sets out on her exploration. She counts 14 doors in her flat and notes that one is locked. Curious about the door, she asks her mother where it goes. Her mother pulls out an old black key and shows her that the door leads to nowhere. The other side of the door has been boarded up with bricks that separate the Jones' flat from the empty one next to them.

Coraline finds this interesting but thinks nothing more of it until one day her mother and father are out for the afternoon. Coraline, having nothing else to do, gets the key to the door and unlocks it. She is surprised to find that the bricks are no longer blocking the way. She walks the long corridor and enters another flat exactly like her own, furniture and all. Coraline is greeted by a woman that looks a lot like her mother, only she has large black buttons in place of her eyes.

The woman tells Coraline that she is her other mother, and that she would like it if Coraline stayed. Coraline meets her other father, who also has buttons for eyes. She explores the other flat and finds that everything on the other side is just a little bit better than home. The toys come to life, the food is tasty, her other mother and father have time for her, the other neighbors (with button eyes) don't call her Caroline, and a cat talks to her. Though, life appears most extraordinary on the other side of the door, Coraline is wary. The more she explores, the stranger the other side becomes.

Coraline goes back to her real home, but her mother and father are still gone. A day passes with no sign of them and then Coraline gets a message from her parents through a mirror telling her that they need help. Coraline believes that her other mother has something to do with her parents disappearance and sets out for the other side to find them. Soon Coraline realizes that there is more to the other side than she first thought, and what she finds is quite horrific.

Essentially, Coraline is the story of good vs evil: Coraline vs her other mother. It is also a story of courage. Coraline has to play a dangerous game with the other mother to win back her previous life. She bargains for her parents, and there is a real chance that she will lose, not only them, but her own life. But Coraline is brave and never lets the fact that deep down she is afraid keep her from her goal. For someone so young this is a great challenge to face alone. Coraline faces it head on.

Coraline was a creepy story with a spooky atmosphere and bits of dry humor sprinkled in here and there to break the darkness of the book. The illustrations by Dave McKean, offered a visual that, though, at times bordered on disturbing, played nicely to the mood of the book. Overall, I had a great time reading Coraline. I look forward to seeing the movie adaptation and hope that it is just as spooky. Grade A.


  1. I read this a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I loved the way the story teetered on the edge of fun and horrific. I hope they did a good job with the movie. :)

  2. I hope they did too, Christine. I really want to see it now that I've finished the book.

  3. Love your review, Brie! Coraline sounds like a very wonderful, creepy story.

  4. Thanks Wendy. It was a very creepy and fun book to read.

  5. I just knew you'd enjoy this book, Brie. Glad to see you finally got it read (and reviewed). Nicely done. And I can't wait for the screen adaptation either...hopefully they did the book some justice. :)