Written by Neil Gaiman, Coraline is a wonderfully imaginative tale of a girl named Coraline who is becomes twisted up in a race to save her parents from her dreaded Other Mother. It’s a short (163pgs) novella that you could classify as horror/fantasy. Perhaps the best way to describe it is it feels like a child’s imagination gone wild. When we’re young, the line between reality and imagination is very blurred. We can dream up so many amazing things (both wonderful and scary) and live inside that world as if it’s real. This inevitably leads to nightmares that make us rush into our parents room, avoiding going downstairs without an adult, or simply afraid to look in the closet at night. Just pondering the idea that children live in such a mix of imagination and intellect makes me jealous.
Coraline, our protagonist, has just moved into a new house with her parents; well, just moved into PART of the house, there are two other flats in the house occupied by very interesting characters. On a random rainy day a couple of days before the new school year begins, Coraline discovers a door that is supposed to lead to the empty flat on the same floor as theirs. Upon stealing the key from her parents, she opens the door, but it leads to a freaky parallel dimension wherein her Other Parents will do anything she wants: play the games, make her yummy meals, and all around support her in her desires to explore and create. However, her Other Mother has a (not so) hidden agenda to keep Coraline as her own for all eternity. The Other Mother has stolen Coraline’s parents, and won’t tell her how to get them back. Coraline draws on all her wit, courage, and physical strength to save her parents (and other children trapped in the alternate dimension), and eventually destroys the Other Mother.
I very much enjoyed the pace of the book, finding myself on the edge of my seat as I was reading. I was rooting so hard for Coraline! Gaiman’s style came through as a cheeky and interesting, and with a mature childhood tone to it. It was if the writer was a child with a wealth of adult vocabulary and experience to draw on. It was refreshing to see such an exact portrayal of what it’s like to be a child with an active imagination.
Of course, the movie was very well done, and you should absolutely see it. My philosophy is to always read the book first; but honestly, this is one of the few times where the movie does the book justice. No matter which you read/watch first, you’re in for a treat. Highly recommend either.