Published by Bloomsbury
Published on 24 January 2002
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When Coraline explores her home, she steps through a door and into a house just like her own... except that it's different. It's a marvellous adventure until Coraline discovers that there's also another mother and another father in the house. They want Coraline to stay with them an be their little girl. They want to keep her forever!
Coraline must use all of her wits and every ounce of courage in order to save herself and return home.
There was a film adaptation of Coraline released in 2009 that was amazing and will be referenced throughout this review.
Coraline Jones, a bored tween, finds a more interesting life through a magical portal in her new house’s drawing room where her Other Mother wants to love her and keep her forever and replace her eyes with bright, shiny black buttons. Other Mother will do anything to keep Coraline…
Coraline is a disenchanted, bored tween in a new house before her new school has started and her parents don’t have time to entertain her. The old house they’ve moved into has been split into four apartments, and while strange neighbours live above and below them, the apartment opposite Coraline’s has a strange door in the drawing room that is blocked off with bricks. Determined to find the secret behind the blocked-up door, Coraline’s adventure takes her into another world where a creepy monster known as the beldam imitates her mother and insists on being called her Other Mother. While Other Mother treats Coraline with love and respect, and spoils her with delicious food and interesting entertainment, she’s desperate to hold on to Coraline, and will even take her real parents hostage. Meanwhile, Other Mother has devoured the souls of children like Coraline before, and the three little ghosts beg Coraline to set them free. If Coraline stays in the Other world, she’ll need to let Other Mother sew black buttons on her eyes, and let Other Mother love her and care for her forever (and possibly eat her?). But if she wants to escape, she needs to find her parents and the souls of the three ghost children with the help of a sardonic and somewhat aloof black cat. It’s notable to mention that in comparison to the film, which I adore, there is no Wyborn character. I believe he was created for the film so Coraline wasn’t wandering around muttering to herself all the time.
Of course as I was reading this I kept comparing it to the film, which I love. In comparison, Coraline from the book isn’t as spunky as Coraline from the film. Film Coraline is downright rude and even somewhat bratty. Book Coraline is more reserved and less aggressive. Both of them are smart and brave and have a certain amount of un-child-like common sense that allows them to achieve their goals.
Similarly, film Mother seems almost mean compared to book Mother. Film father seems more lively than book Father. Film Beldam seems scarier than Book Beldam, but maybe that’s because they model her so excellently on a spider and the reveal is very slow. Like I said earlier, Wyborn doesn’t exist in the book and neither does his grandmother so that makes a very minor plot point moot. The Misses Fink and Forcible are more lively and far more amusing in the film, as is Mr Bobo and his moues circus. It’s not that the book is bland, it’s just that the film took a really good idea and made it so much better.
Coraline is super creepy and I think it’s fantastic for a middle grade/young YA book. It never treats its younger readers with anything but respect and expects them to be able to figure out problems alongside or even before Coraline does. I kind of wished that Gaimen had written the early adventures as if they were a dream, like in the film. I also found the book’s climax to be more satisfying than the film, but I recognise, similar to my response to Gaimen’s Stardust, that certain elements work better on the screen. Although Gaimen is wonderful at description and dialogue, they do say that a picture says a thousand words, and so I think the film was more successful in getting its message and meaning across.
I didn’t find anything wrong with the pacing. The plot moved quickly enough to keep my attention, even though it’s only a short book and even though I roughly knew what was coming thanks to the film. I was excited to get back to the book when I put it down. There were a couple of subplots that were built into the book but like I said it was a shorter novel so I’m not fussed about missing them.
If you’ve seen the film you’d probably really enjoy this book. Even if you haven’t seen the film, (I’ve played the video game based on the film and really enjoyed that, too!) I think it’s a really engaging, thoughtful, creepy story that treats its younger audience members like grown ups. There’s no holding back on the creep, horror or suspense.