Source: purchased (paperback).
Genre: MG paranormal (?) fantasy.
When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous. But there’s another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.Coraline will have to fight with all her wit and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.
Coraline will have to fight with all her wit and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.
I really like Neil Gaiman. I mean, I haven’t had much luck with his adult novels yet but Stardust was a beautiful fairytale and I still think The Graveyard Book is one of the best middle grade books I’ve read.
Coraline is another one of his successes but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to young readers. Why, you ask? Well, I know it was written and published and marketed as an MG book but honestly, it creeped me out and I can definitely imagine having nightmares if I’d read it as a child. I didn’t often read scary stuff when I was younger (I was a big chicken even then) but I remember reading Dracula when I was about 14, for example, and it scared the sh*t out of me. The fact that the story is accompanied by black-and-white illustrations by Dave McKean isn’t comforting at all, as they are creepy as hell. Buttons for eyes? *shudder* So … I’d say Coraline is a great book for youngsters who are already used to scary stuff and even crave it but I’d be careful if the kid was a bit of a scaredy cat.
The fact is that Coraline deals with some serious issues. The image of a girl whose parents are less than enthusiastic about her is provocative in its own right, but the big question is: would she switch her parents for more loving ones, given the chance? I found Gaiman’s execution of this problem to be really good, he managed to bring all the tension into it but also gave us a powerful resolution in the end.
I loved the setting, the big old house with wonky neighbors and the strange feeling of isolation. But maybe it’s a bit much for kids? I don’t even know, it’s so surreal and dreamlike at times that I could hardly keep up with all the doors and hallways and all. Am I judging it too harshly? Am I being patronizing towards kids? Ugh.
See, I can’t even make up my own mind on this one. I think Coraline is a fantastic read but if the target audience is supposed to be the same age as the heroine, it’s too complex (the setting and the execution, not the theme – the theme is perfect). I’d expect this kind of complexity from a YA novel but then the theme is perhaps less relevant for such an age group. *sigh*
Have you read Coraline? What did you think?
Do you always trust publishers and authors when it comes to determining the target audience of a novel?
I’d love to hear from you! :)