Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"The Ocean at the End of the Lane" by Neil Gaiman

“Oh, monsters are scared,” said Lettie. “That’s why they’re monsters.”

Neil Gaiman again delivers a truly creepy story about a child facing danger that might seem like too much for a child to read. That may be exactly what makes it such a good story, even for children. Those are the best sorts of stories. After all, in another quote from that same discussion in the book:

“Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups.”

That has been my feeling. I never have figured out how to feel as confident and “adult” as the adults I have known, even now when I am older than many of the adults I know.

But that is just one element that this story brushes up against. And, I say “brushes up against” because this is a light story. Even when it manages to evoke very intense horror, it remains a brief, transient, tale. The monsters in this book are all dried out cloth or shadow, and the story feels like that as well.

It deals with a boy accidentally opening himself up to an evil, and then watching helplessly as that evil plays itself out in his family, impacting them in real, uncomfortable to read ways. And, it is not a story about a “power within” or a child overcoming the evil. He is helpless and remains so throughout. He must rely on the power, and sacrifice of more powerful being to fix his problem. There is a good deal of truth in that type of story. Truth that kids would benefit from hearing more often.

But be warned. Even as a “light” story, it is not to be read lightly.

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