CORALINE by Neil Gaiman (Harper, 2002)
GENRE: Contemporary / Horror
HONORS: SLJ Best Book; HUGO Award for Best Novella; ALA Notable Children’s Book; ALA Best Book for Young Adults; Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers
REVIEW: Coraline, a very modern, very smart and very bored girl, finds a hidden door in her new house. On the other side is an "other" world, with an alternate version of her parents. The alternate parents are attentive and ideal - except for their black button eyes. Coraline is wary and she is right to be so. The alternate world works hard to draw her back, and the real world grows creepier and more foreboding as a result. Gaiman displays impressive control, despite the fact that the story mines very fertile ground. His plotting and prose are tight and lucid, and Coraline is a compelling heroine. Wise and brave, she defeats evil through cleverness and, in a subtle stroke at the end, learns not to be bored in the mundane world.
OPINION: I loved Coraline's creepiness. The pacing and overall plot worked seamlessly to create a world in which oddities, taken individually, appear to be benign, but taken collectively represent a great threat.
IDEAS: More sophisticated than Goosebumps and other such fare, Coraline is an engrossing, easy-to-read alternative for kids ready to move on to a slightly subtler form of scary.