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Review: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book

Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Middle Grade/Young adult fantasy
Page Count: 286
Published by: HarperCollins
Date Published: September 30, 2008
You can find a copy here: Bookshop.org


Nobody “Bod” Owens lives in a graveyard. He has been raised by Mister and Mistress Owens, a couple that haven’t been alive for a century, and his guardian – Silas – who is neither living nor dead, after his entire family was murdered by “The Man Jack.”

Blending between a ghostly, magical existence in the graveyard and a very real flesh-and-blood existence with dangerous peril, Bod learns the facts of life and survival, all while being protected by those long dead. But can Bod remain hidden forever when The Man Jack lurks at every corner intent on finishing his job?


It seems slightly ridiculous to “review” a novel that is as cherished as The Graveyard Book. A novel that is over a decade old. A novel written by one of the greatest authors of all time … I mean, what can a measly little reviewer say?

Nothing, really, except you should do yourself a favour and read this. That is assuming if you, like me (a self proclaimed Gaiman super fan), haven’t done so already.

I’ve read an interview with Neil Gaiman in which he says he doesn’t write his stories, other than American Gods, with any singular audience in mind. He doesn’t consider his stories definitively middle grade or children’s fiction, young adult or adult fiction. “Visiting or revisiting books at different ages gives you a different book each time. The Coraline that a seven year old girl reads will not be the same book a fifty year old man reads …” I think this is resoundingly true for The Graveyard Book. Reading this as an adult, but especially as a parent of a preteen, is what leant the book such power for me. On the one hand this is a somewhat spooky The Jungle Book retelling of a boy growing up in a graveyard and all the fantastical adventures he experiences. On the other hand it is a deeply touching story of growing up, discovering yourself, and letting your children go off into the world. The gift that is life. The importance of our names, our identities, how these grow with time, how they change … “You’re always you, and that don’t change, and you’re always changing, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

I loved this book. I was a bit skeptical at first as the story sets itself up rather slowly, but once Bod’s story gets going I found it quite difficult to put down. This isn’t just an imaginative romp of a story about a boy who lives in a graveyard – which of course it is and does it well, but, as with all Neil Gaiman, a greater working conversation on growing up, becoming oneself, living, learning and letting go. I would be apprehensive to just hand this off as middle grade, as it can be quite an unsettling adventure – Bod’s family is murdered in the opening pages after all – but as an adult I greatly enjoyed it. It was simply fantastic. Definitely recommend the audiobook narrated by Neil Gaiman himself.

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