Top critical review
Reviewed in the United States on January 24, 2018
Let me say first off that I'm a huge Neil Gaiman fan. I loved THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. And I'd heard about CORALINE for years, but hadn't gotten around to reading it. Now that I have, however, I must say I was disappointed. It's not a bad book. It just doesn't meet the standard set by Mr. Gaiman's other books.
Which brings to mind a problem I've been having lately with a lot of the books supposedly adored by critics. These books exhibit flaws critics normally criticize, and yet with books like CORALINE they turn a blind eye.
NOTE: What follows has some spoilers, so if you haven't read it, skip the rest.
Case in point: CORALINE has a double ending. Our heroine escapes from the "other house" and the story's over right? Wrong. She has to go back. Other problems? The setup takes too long and is boring. Coraline and all of the characters are thinly drawn and poorly defined. The only thing that stood out about Coraline was that she was brave. And how do I know that? Because she kept telling me so. Yes, she exhibited some bravery throughout the story, but critics traditionally hate telling and not showing, and there was a lot of telling in CORALINE. Also it is an incredibly violent and disturbing story, especially one designed for children. Sewing buttons over children's eyes? Come on, critics, where's your righteous anger? And why hasn't even one critic criticized the dialog? At best it's stilted and unrealistic. At worst it's just poorly written.
On the plus side--and my reason for giving it three stars and not less--Mr. Gaiman's writing can be beautiful, albeit overly simplistic in the case of CORALINE. Simplistic writing is something critics generally champion in children's literature, and CORALINE certainly doesn't disappoint in this regard, but having spent my career working with children in the middle-grade age range, I've learned they don't like childish writing and prefer not to be spoken down to.
Anyway, there you have it--my opinion, and it's worth every penny you paid for it. And for those who adore CORALINE, my apologies. I wish I had liked it more. But for me, there are much better books out there.