That Neil Gaiman sure can tell a tale, especially for the YA crowd. Long ago I read and enjoyed his Anansi Boys, which is geared toward adults, but this was way more fun.
The Graveyard Book begins with the brutal murder of a toddler’s entire family by a member of the secret Convocation, the toddler’s oblivious escape out the front door and up the hill into the neighborhood graveyard, and the boy’s subsequent adoption by a couple of three hundred year old ghosts, the guardianship by a mysterious un-living/un-dead guy able to come and go from the graveyard (a kid’s gotta eat), and the eventual acceptance / protection of the “Freedom Of The Graveyard” granted by the graveyard’s most colorful inhabitants.
Growing up with the Freedom Of The Graveyard enables Nobody, Bod for short, to hang out with the dead and, throughout his youth, learn all the best dead tricks: Fading, Sliding, Dreamwalking, and soon enough, Haunting, Chilling, and Fear. We watch him befriend, lose, and re-friend (should be a word) a living girl who thinks he’s imaginary. He mistakenly journeys through the ghoul-gate with a couple of crazy ghouls (including Victor Hugo, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, and the 33rd president of the United States), develops a crush on a witch buried on the other side of the tracks, and finds an extremely well hidden and truly haunted tomb. For a short time, Bod tries his hand at school with, you know, living children, and eventually, (I hope this isn’t a spoiler) he finds his true name.
The Graveyard Book has so many fun little adventures, sparks of subtle humor, times of gripping suspense, glimpses into true darkness, and acts of courage and intelligence that I raced through it way too quickly. Throughout the tale we know the killer is out there seeking to end Bod’s life before he does what he is destined to do, but we never actually discover what that destiny is. Bod turned out to be a really great kid, ready to take on the world, so I’m really hoping that he will. And that we’ll hear more about those worldly adventures in a “part 2″ sometime soon.