One thing I have learned after four decades on this planet is that anything can get boring. Donuts for breakfast? The delight will fade. Roller coasters every day? The thrill will abate. Reading sci-fi on a regular basis? (gasp) Yes, even that will get tedious after a while.
I recently hit an apathy wall when I started reading a new book by a favorite author. I got two chapters in and realized, “I’m just not enjoying this.” The prose was great and the story was intriguing, but I couldn’t shake the indifference. It took me a while to realize that my reading mind was over-saturated. The quality was irrelevant, I was just bored. And what’s the remedy for any boring activity? Do something else.
And so I switched to fantasy. But not just any fantasy, and I specifically avoided epic fantasy because I didn’t want to get halfway through a giant tome only to realize that I had made a mistake. I wanted a simple, digestible, yet high-quality fantasy. Once I started that search, it didn’t take long to narrow it down to Neil Gaiman.
Coraline fit the bill, which had already set itself apart as one of the most beloved children’s fantasy stories of all time. I had already watched the stop-motion movie, which was fantastic. This gave me the opportunity to play every reader’s favorite game: “Which is better?” (Spoiler alert: they’re both fantastic.)
Oh what a breath of fresh air Coraline was. It’s a shorter read, more novella than novel, but that doesn’t matter in the slightest because you get the feeling that Gaiman hand-selected each word from a bowl of perfection. The prose is simply magical and it seizes your attention from the very first page.
The story follows the titled protagonist, a young girl who is small for her age, as her family moves into a new house. While exploring, she discovers a portal into another house. It’s a mirror image with all sorts of fun and adventure, but with a sinister underbelly. She slowly uncovers that mystery, which pulls her into a mission to save her family.
This story can easily be read in a single sitting. But when you find a bowl of candy, it’s best not to eat it all at once. This was the first time in recent memory where I intentionally doled out a book to myself. I read a few chapters a night over the course of a week, which was a delightful way to end each day. I was actually sad when Coraline ended because it was the reading tonic I sorely needed. Thank you, Mr. Gaiman. What a masterpiece.