Plot Summary: Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy-an ancient Indigo Man beneath the hill, a gateway to a desert leading to an abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family...
I was already a fan of Neil Gaiman before I picked up this book, and now I’m an even bigger fan. I mean, how many people could pull off a story of a boy being raised in a graveyard? Not many.
I had some trepidation about the subject, and the manner in which this boy came to the graveyard. But Mr. Gaiman handled it beautifully. Despite the underlying darkness, there are no gruesome details. No horrifying scenes. Just action, adventure, and a lot of sympathy for a boy named Nobody.
As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.
This whole book is told from Bod as a toddler to Bod as a teenager, through vignette type stories. We see Bod grow up, and are only given the most important details along the way: Scarlet, fading, the ghouls, etc. They all play a vital part in the end. I was fascinated by this strategy, because it reminded me of a series with an overall storyline.
This is also a multiple viewpoint story that doesn’t head-hop. We see the information we need to see while maintaining our connection to Bod, and we don’t migrate from head to head within a scene. The different viewpoints have a definite purpose, and are clearly laid out so the reader knows who is speaking at all times.
There were more telling phrases than I prefer (“Bod knew” or “Bod thought” etc), but it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the story. In fact, I was both pleased and surprised that this book won the Newbery. It’s more plot-driven than character-driven, which doesn’t usually get recognized.
Overall, I loved it. And I think it’s a book that kids will love, too, though a warning that the story opens with murder might be in order. : )