London, Bloomsbury, 2009, 185p
This is a dark, sinister novel that I have been putting off reading for a while due to concerns about having nightmares...
Coraline is a bored, lonely girl. She likes exploring - out in the woods, up in her neighbours' flat, all around her new old house. Her parents are very busy so she is left to entertain herself. Then one day, she unlocks a door into another house, where the other mother and father give her lots of love and attention. They want her to stay there with her, promising to give her everything she could ever want. But Coraline just wants her real parents back.
Coraline is a clever and curious protagonist. She loves to learn new things, always asking questions about the worlds around her. Unfortunately, the adults around her are pretty useless, too caught up in their own lives to engage with and entertain her. Her little adventure is full of strange people and places, like the man who is trying to teach rats to play musical instruments and the women who reminisce extensively about their past lives as famous actresses on stage.
The world Coraline finds herself in is dark and dangerous. It looks just like her parents house, but the more she investigates the more she realises that things are not as they initially seem. Her room is brightly decorated and contains strange, living toys; and outside, the woods are incomplete, slowly becoming misty and vague the further she wanders in. And her other parents, though kind and caring in appearance, are greedy and evil, desperate to possess her soul.
As a child, I was scared about my parents forgetting about me or losing me. Here, Gaiman plays on that universal fear, creating a nightmare that no child ever wishes to live.