Hello, people of the internet!
This is my series discussing books that I read years ago that are not only books I love, but have something(s) about them that make them stand out, memorable and have taught me important lessons.
So when I was thinking about books that have stayed with me, one popped into my head not only suddenly, but stayed there as if waiting for me to write this post.
And as I was planning this, I realised why it has stayed with me. It was for two reasons: it was the first horror to actually scare me; and it taught me an important lessons about bravery.
Spoiler alert: I will be talking about the plot to Coraline in great detail. You have been warned!
Coraline, written by Neil Gaiman, is a novella about a girl, Coraline, who moves into a new house and finds a mysterious door that leads to the Other World, where her Other parents, mostly her Other Mother, and her Other Neighbours are more exciting, attentive and whose main priorities are entertaining and loving Coraline, something she feels her parents and neighbours in the real world don’t do. However, they all have buttons for eyes. Coraline’s Other Parents say that she can stay in the Other World forever and get what she wants, but she has to have buttons sewn over her eyes. When Coraline refuses, the dark secret about the Other World and the Other Mother begins to unfold…
I saw the film version first and…what can I say? I loved it! It’s stop motion animation where a lot of work and effort goes into it and I love watching it. Seeing the film Coraline, I’m still astonished at how it moves – I forget that they’re models and that animators moved them a teeny-weeny bit frame by frame in order to make them look like they’re moving on their own. It’s just so memorising to watch! But it wasn’t only the animation that impressed me: it was the story.
I have previously mentioned on other posts that I’m not always scared, or even creeped out, by horrors, but there was something very creepy about the plot to Coraline that put me on edge. So when I heard that it was a book, I borrowed it from the school library – I was about fourteen years old at the time – and read it.
Oh boy, if I thought the film was creepy, the book is far worse.
Its descriptions of the Other World’s inhabitants are top-notch when it comes to creating atmosphere. There is something immediately off about the Other World, but it seems so exciting and interesting at the same time, a lot more so than the real world. So when Coraline refuses to have buttons sewn over her eyes, everything goes downhill. Next thing you know, her real parents have been kidnapped and the Other Mother has no intention in letting Coraline go, even trapping Coraline behind a mirror where her previous victims, the ghost children, have been trapped in for at least a hundred years! In order to save her parents and the ghost children, Coraline bets the Other Mother that if she finds the ghost children’s souls and her parents, she can leave; but if she fails, she stays in the Other World forever and will have buttons sewn into her eyes. During this game, the world starts to fall apart, the Other Mother starts to look less like a human, the other inhabitants try to harm Coraline…this once bright and interesting world loses its charm and becomes incredibly unstable and hostile. Coraline’s only help are the cat, who can talk (very sarcastically at times, but what the heck, I still love his character!) in the Other World and gives her advice, and a strange stone with a hole that can find missing souls.
After Coraline tricks the Other Mother at her own game, traps the Other Mother’s hand in the door during the escape and locks the door, Coraline have saved her parents, the ghost children as well as herself.
So everything is safe.
Nope! The Other Mother’s hand (like her actual skin and bone hand! In the film, it’s needles – that’s why I think the book is more creepier!) moves around like a spider, trying to steal the key away from Coraline so the Other Mother can unlock the door between both worlds!
With all of this, I read Coraline in a day! I just couldn’t put it down! I was so creeped out by the constant danger and its themes of abandonment, death as well as abusive motherly relationships. I didn’t go into too much detail when I discussed the Other Mother in My Top 5 Favourite Book Villains post because I wanted to talk about it in this post. How the Other Mother loves these children, including Coraline, is more like a possessive love. She attends to these children, shows them how much she loves them, but once she’s bored of them, she abandons them, leaving them to die alone. Even though Coraline is a horror fantasy story, this is something that happens in real life. That alone scares me.
The amount of danger Coraline is in is frightening to read, especially since she is only a child. But she is an admiring protagonist. She is witty, adventurous as well as flawed (seriously she does complain a lot!), but she loves her parents and cares for the ghost children so much, she is willing to sacrifice her life in order to save them. She is one of the bravest characters I have ever read.
And that leads to the second reason why Coraline has stayed with me: it taught me what bravery really meant.
Coraline talks about this to the cat before returning to the Other World to save her parents. It was then that it really hit home: I was wrong about what bravery was. I thought bravery was when you aren’t scared, but that’s not true. Being brave is when you do something you know is the right thing to do, even though you are scared. That is such an important lesson to learn, especially since the meaning of bravery is very often misinterpreted. Teaching people what the true meaning of bravery is can go a long way. It also shows what a person is capable of doing even though they are scared. Bravery is an admiring trait that should be taught to children.
It has been eight years since I first read Coraline. Not only was it the first horror to truly scare me, but it was the first book to teach me what bravery really meant.
Thank you for reading!