#3. Coraline by Neil Gaiman

This is the story of Coraline, who was small for her age, and found herself in the darkest danger. Before it was all over Coraline had seen what lay behind mirrors, and had a close call with a bad hand, and had come face to face with her other mother; she had rescued her true parents from a fate worse than death and triumphed against overwhelming odds. This is the story of Coraline, who lost her parents, and found them again, and (more or less) escaped (more or less) unscathed.
~Neil Gaiman
After the emotionally taxing piece of literature that was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I decided it was time for something a little lighter. Something not so... intense.

Instead, I read Coraline. Being the first book on the list of which I saw the movie first, I thought I knew what to expect. I liked Gaiman's writing style, and Coraline was a good movie, as well as a children's book. I figured it would be a relaxing read.

I was wrong. Coraline is not by any means a bad book. It is very well written, and keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time. It is also not by any means a relaxing book. It hits the ground running. The first sentence is: Coraline discovered the door a little while after they moved into the house, and from there on it just gets more and more intense. So many times I've caught myself holding my breath, curled into a tight ball and seeking comfort from my pillows and stuffed animals.

If I had to sum it up in one word, that word would have to be terrifying. So many times I asked myself, how is this a children's book? I think part of it is because it plays on the fear that we've all had at one point or another over the course of our lives... and yes, I do mean all of us. If you can read this and say that you've never once opened a cabinet door and felt that moment of panic, or opened the door to your room or closet and wondered for that fraction of a second what you would find waiting for you, I would call you a liar. It happens to all of us. We all wonder if there's a snowy world at the back of our wardrobes, or a dark corridor where our closets used to be, or mysterious stairs in the crawl space that weren't there before.

In Coraline's world, there really is something where a brick wall used to be, and that something is dark and sinister and wants to possess her for itself. And the things that happen... some of them made me want to cry out. No joke. I just wanted to scream at some of the things she encountered in that other house.

And while I'm reading it, curled in my little ball, I'm wondering how this could possibly be a book for children, when it was scaring me so completely. But, Gaiman was way ahead of me, and addresses this very question when describing why he wrote the book:
It was a story, I learned when people began to read it, that children experienced as an adventure, but which gave adults nightmares.
 Which actually makes sense. The things Coraline encounters are scary to me, because I've had time to sort through my imagination and interpret some things as good and some things as bad. The other mother was terrifying to me because I expected something to go wrong. Nothing is sunshine and roses all the time and anyone that pretends to be is hiding something. For me, the fear built up and when the bad things happened they were terrifying. But a child... to a child, a kind mother with buttons for eyes that makes you delicious dinners and plays games with you all day would be wonderful, and anything that comes after that is merely an adventure, be it dangerous or otherwise. I almost feel like you have to be an adult to understand the horrors that Coraline went through, or to at least register them as horrors. 

FINAL SAY: Read it. At just over 200 pages, Coraline is Gaiman's finest work. It is poetic, meaningful, terrifying, wonderful, and so worth your time. It is the shortest book on my list (so far, and probably the shortest of them all) and still managed to be the one I like best.

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