The Graveyard Book

Nobody ‘Bod’ Owens is the only living resident of the graveyard. He was brought up entirely by ghosts and his guardian, Silas, who is something else altogether. As far as Bod is concerned, his life isn’t so extraordinary.

In Bod’s world, there is nothing more scary in the graveyard than that which awaits him in the world of the living. See, Bod came to live in the graveyard in the first place when his entire family were slaughtered by the man Jack.

Bod was the only survivor, and the man Jack will never stop searching for him.

graveyard

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, is one of my favourite YA novels of all time. A book about ghosts, murderers and the long process of growing up, it’s a story that resonates more with every rereading.

I love a personal growth story. We all know this about me. The Graveyard Book has all the elements of a great coming-of-age novel with some supernatural bits thrown in for fun. As I mentioned already, Bod was brought up pretty much entirely by the dead. This comes with certain perks, specifically, some ghostly abilities of his own. He can fit through impossibly narrow spaces and fade into fog – with practise, of course.

The book has all the atmosphere you’d expect from a Neil Gaiman novel. I wanted to reach out and touch every scene even as the words slipped through my fingers.

Neil Gaiman is wonderful at telling a story in glimpses. Bod knows that it was something terrible that brought him to live in the graveyard, but it’s a vague and distant knowledge. It lacks detail. He knows that his guardian, Silas – neither dead or alive – is working to protect him, but he doesn’t know from what.

Silas leaves me wanting more every time I read this book. He is a perpetual mystery. He is a creature without category. Honestly, I think my love of Silas comes from a desire for a mysterious-yet-sexy mentor in my own life. Sigh.

Anyway.

Silas is Bod’s father figure. He’s his protector. He spends all his time trying to take down the threats that want to see Bod dead before he even experiences life outside of the graveyard. He’s emotionally unavailable (just how I like my men. Sigh. Again. Anyway. Again.) and though Bod knows that he cares for him, despite having known him his whole life, he has to admit to himself that he knows nothing about his mentor. He doesn’t even know exactly what he even is. Silas is Bod’s only real connection to the outside world. As a result there is a lot of frustration in their relationship (because Silas will never tell Bod what’s going on) and also this weird sort of premature regret because the unspoken result of Silas’ work, making the world outside the graveyard safe for Bod, is that Bod would then leave the graveyard. You get the feeling that Silas approaches he and Bod’s entire relationship through the lens of impending loss, and it stops them from truly connecting throughout the entire novel.

This is totally frustrating, but in a way that feels sort of good at the same time. We’re so used to characters laying it all out there after brooding around for a few chapters, the experience of never really knowing someone’s deal is actually very refreshing. That said I still hold out hope that Neil Gaiman might give Silas his own book one day.

Despite the whole graveyard thing, the central theme of this book is life, and its preciousness. The dead are full of tales from their lives, and Bod drinks them in. As the reader, every ghostly interaction serves as a reminder of the simple fact that life is finite. All the stories Bod can hear in the graveyard are past tense. They’re over. This makes you intensely aware of the not over-ness of Bod. He’s a real, living boy who can go out into the world and have adventures. He knows he’ll come back to the graveyard eventually (and doesn’t fear death at all, a concept entirely alien to me, being of the group of people who assume they are dying on developing a particularly severe headache) but before then he has his life, and he intends to live it.

‘There was a passport in his bag, money in his pocket. There was a smile dancing on his lips, although it was a wary smile, for the world is a bigger place than a little graveyard on a hill; and there would be dangers in it and mysteries, new friends to make, old friends to rediscover, mistakes to be made and many paths to be walked before he would, finally, return to the graveyard or ride with the Lady on the broad back of her great grey stallion.

But between now and then, there was Life, and Bod walked into it with his eyes and his heart wide open.’

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5 Pick-Me-Up Books for Down Days

I think that at this point people are pretty sick of the recently graduated broadcasting to everyone they know how much their lives suck.

As such, I’m not going to get into it. Suffice to say that the past couple months have been heavy on the job rejection front (I have received 2 in the time I have been writing this blog post!).

This Buzzfeed article pretty much covers it.

But, the truth is, people who spend all their time feeling sorry for themselves are annoying. In the interest of not being one of those people (and Monday being, as always, the start of a New Game), today I present a list of pick-me-up books. You know. Those books that inject a much needed bit of encouragement, or just humour, into your life right when you need it.

The time has come for me to ignore my TBR and turn instead to some old favourites.

pickmeup

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

This book will probably fit into every single list I ever write. The simple fact is that I always feel like it was written for me.

Cath is the anxious type. The thrown-in-at-the-deep-end feeling of the first year of university isn’t helping any. Her anxious parts are in overdrive. For the first few weeks she can’t even make herself go into the cafeteria.

(I loved this detail because for my first week of university, I lived off of cheese biscuits and a giant jar of Nutella. I too, had a lot of trouble leaving my room. It seems silly now).

But, despite her resistance, she makes friends. She meets a guy. She copes without even realising that she’s doing it.

What I like so much about this book is the speed at which Cath’s life opens. Coping, for Cath, is something that happens slowly. It’s in every action, rather than a rushed montage-like chapter after which she has her entire universe sussed. For Cath, Okay is a process. There is something incredibly comforting in that which brings me back to this book whenever I get down.

I Was Told There’d be Cake – Sloane Crosley

Sloane Crosley’s writing bridges the distance between laugh-out-loud and melancholy in a way that is very appealing when dealing with a serial crappy day scenario. While many of her essays tell stories that are outlandish, they remain authentic and relatable.

She writes a lot about the distancing of friendships that starts to happen when you get older and move in different directions. She writes about getting rid of the toy pony collection she built up in gifts from various ex-boyfriends. She also talks about the annoying questions people ask when you say you’re vegetarian, which I appreciated (asking someone but what do you eat? makes you a dick 100% of the time, btw).

Maybe my favourite essay in the book is about the time she threw a dinner party for three friends and one of their asshole boyfriends, and found, when they had left, that one of them had taken a shit on her bathroom floor.

Sloane’s voice is a comforting presence on a bad day.

The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

The last chapter of this book never fails to make me cry. But it’s sort of for good reasons. If you have a copy and you haven’t read it in forever, please go read the last chapter now. Trust me.

Nobody ‘Bod’ Owens grew up in a graveyard. He had to hide there in order to be safe from the dangers of the world.

Until he didn’t.

‘There was a passport in his bag, money in his pocket. There was a smile dancing on his lips, although it was a wary smile, for the world is a bigger place than a little graveyard on a hill; and there would be dangers in it and mysteries, new friends to make, old friends to rediscover, mistakes to be made and many paths to be walked before he would, finally, return to the graveyard or ride with the Lady on the broad back of her great grey stallion.

But between now and then, there was Life; and Bod walked into it with his eyes and his heart wide open.’

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie

I really love fish-out-of-water stories (Legally Blonde is one of my favourite movies). Within that, I love when characters succeed simply by being their awesome selves, and gradually getting recognition for that from their peers, rather than by wreaking some epic revenge.  This is not to say that I don’t believe in Matilda-ing the hell out of a situation when necessary. Sometimes you have to make your scary, force-feeding head teacher think that her house is haunted and drive her out of town.

Other times, you’ve just got to be your awesome self, like Elle Woods and Arnold Spirit, and wait for everybody else to catch up.

Arnold has the kind of life where the prospect of hope is in the opposite direction of home. He lives on the Spokane Indian reservation. There is a lot of poverty. His parents are alcoholics.

Nobody ever really leaves the reservation. So when Arnold decides to get out and attend the all-white high school in town miles away… people are kind of mad. People at the all-white high school are kind of mad, too.

But despite all this – the traumatic home life, school days filled with racist discrimination and a whole lot of tragedy and grief, Arnold survives. And thrives. He’s an impressive guy.

I recommend this to anyone who’s starting to think they might need to leave their tribe.

Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling

Because memoirs by ladies heal all (insubstantial) wounds.

Of Mindy Kaling’s two memoirs, this one is the best, in my opinion. While the first one is totally enjoyable, I can’t help but feel like she puts more of herself into this second offering. In the introduction she states that she’s done with wanting to be liked, and is instead now much more interested in being known. That is an attitude I can get behind.

This book is about work and being a woman and dating. It’s about 4am worries and the secret to success (spoiler alert: it’s hard work, apparently).

It’s also really really funny and 100% guaranteed to lift the sort of self-involved, churlish sadness that has been the subject of this blog post.

 

Do you have any books that you automatically reread when times get crappy? Let me know. I can always use more mood-boosting reads.

5 Weird Reads

5 Weird Reads to Get You Out of Your Real Life and/or Reading Rut

Sometimes real life gets kind of boring.

Boredom is contagious. It infects all areas of your life. Sometimes – and I hate to admit it – boredom even invades your sacred reading space.

YA has trends like everything else after all. There are only so many dystopian novels a person can read, you know?

I might have a solution.

5 Weird Reads to Get You Out of Your Real Life and/or Reading Rut:

1. Going BovineLibba Bray

going bovine

Cameron has mad cow disease. He’s going to die. Unless he does as the hot angel Dulcie tells him to, and takes his hypochondriacal dwarf buddy, Gonzo and an angry Viking gnome across America in search of a cure. And defeat the evil United Snow Globe Wholesalers in the process, of course.

2. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender – Leslye Walton

the strange and beautiful sorrows of ava lavender

This book is a beautiful example of magical realism. The story weaves throughout the tragic history of the Roux family. Ava Lavender, a girl born with wings, traces back through the saddest stories in order to find her place in the world. Is she an angel, or just a girl? Can she be both?

3. The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

the graveyard book

Bod is the only living resident in a graveyard. It’s hard to grow up around the dead, but it comes with certain perks. Bod knows about to fade, like a ghost. It’s a killer move for hide and seek, but sadly Bod doesn’t have anyone living to play that with.

4. Grasshopper JungleAndrew Smith

grasshopper jungle

Austin and Robby may have accidentally brought about the end of humanity by accidentally releasing an army of unstoppable, six foot praying mantises in Iowa. Unstoppable praying mantises who pretty much only eat and fuck, which wouldn’t be so bad if their diet weren’t strictly human.

5. John Dies @ the End – David Wong

john dies @ the end

This book isn’t YA, and absolutely isn’t for younger readers, but remains one of the weirdest pieces of fiction I have read ever. Basically if you take the soy sauce Korrock (evil God of evil) becomes your responsibility. You can’t un-learn about the invasion (led by Korrock). Once you’ve taken the sauce you must fight the forces threatening to enslave humanity. This might involve killing the same two headed creature with the same ax twice.

Where I hang out on the internet #2

Basically this post is a shortlist of the links my friends and I send each other on Facebook.

Here are some fun things I’ve found online over the past couple weeks. Basically this post is a shortlist of the links my friends and I send each other on Facebook.

To read:

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jun/22/bridget-christie-feminists-sex-men-book-extract?CMP=fb_gu

An amazing article about feminism. I have too many favourite quotes from this, but here’s one of many:

‘I’m not entirely sure about women wearing a “This is what a feminist looks like” T-shirt. Or men, for that matter. It’s overstating the case a bit, isn’t it? It’s like wearing a T-shirt with “I am not a racist” on it. It makes me suspicious. I assume that most people’s default setting is feminist, until they do or say something that makes me think otherwise. If I went bowling with a friend, for example, and they took their coat off to reveal an “I am not a racist” T-shirt underneath, I don’t think I’d feel relieved at all. On the contrary, it would make me very on edge. I’d spend the whole night worried I was bowling with an ironic racist.’

This extract comes from Bridget Christie’s book, A Book For Her. It is absolutely going on my TBR.

To watch:

Yesterday, I posted about the amazing Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast. What I didn’t say is that it’s also a Youtube channel. In this video Cristen Conger adresses the ridiculous equating of transgender and transracial going around the internet in the aftermath of the Rachel Dolezal scandal.

To listen:

A really amazing lecture by Neil Gaiman on how stories last… or don’t. One of my favourite parts was about Sleeping Beauty. Apparently in the original tale, the whole cursed to sleep for one hundred years thing was only the beginning of the story. The main action was Sleeping Beauty’s evil mother in law, who attempts to frame her for murdering and subsequently eating her own children. I want a Disney version of that.

Neil Gaiman on How Stories Last