CW: Mild spoilers ahead
"Be careful what you wish for."
Human beings often spend time conjuring up "perfect" imaginary scenarios in their heads to escape their everyday mundane lives. We believe if we get all our desires, then we will definitely be happy. But the story of Coraline serves as a cautionary tale against the pursuit of perfectionism. It reminds its readers that wishes come with a price, and things aren't always what they seem.
Coraline is a children's fantasy novella written by Neil Gaiman, which tells the story of a young adventurous girl who finds herself in a parallel world that appears to be dream-like but soon discovers the strange and sinister workings behind the so-called perfect world. Coraline marked Gaiman's entry into the world of children's literature. The novella received critical acclaim and was adapted into an animated feature film by the director Henry Selick.
Coraline's story starts, in the same manner, most of the horror stories on this planet start - when her family moves into a new house. Coraline's workaholic and unaffectionate parents don't have time for her, and most of the people in her new neighborhood can't even get her name right. Feeling unloved and bored, she starts exploring her new house in search of excitement and adventure.
While exploring her new house, Coraline comes across a strange door blocked by a brick wall. Ignoring the warnings, she opens the door again, and this time she finds a portal to a parallel world that is similar to her world except it's much better. Coraline's other parents in the strange otherworld give her all that she desires - tasty food, toys, affection, and a lot of attention.
But there's a catch - her other mother and other father have buttons in place of eyes, and if Coraline wants to stay in the perfect dream world, she will also have to stitch buttons in place of her eyes. That is when Coraline is creeped out and wants to go back to her original world, but the other mother taunts her telling her no one back at her home loves her. She tells Coraline how she can get everything she could ever want if she chooses to stay with her other mother in the parallel world.
That is when Coraline bravely and savagely replies, "I don't want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted just like that, and it didn't mean anything? What then?"
This marks the start of the battle between the other mother, the main antagonist of the series, and Coraline, as she attempts to go back to her original world and normal life. Now I don't want to reveal what happens next because I highly recommend you to check out the book for yourself. And if you are too lazy to read, then at least watch the movie. I promise that the story does not disappoint.
The story touches upon basic themes such as - bravery, loving your family, and being content with what you have which are all perfectly fit for a children's story. Also, the themes are perfectly blended with the story, and at no point does it come across as preachy. Coraline is also an admirable and fun character to read. Gaiman crafts a great child character who acts like a kid but is not dumb. She is imaginative, intelligent, reckless but is also really brave. Gaiman tells the story in the form of a creepy fairytale, with his simple yet descriptive writing style serving as the perfect window into the eerie tale of Coraline.
The novella is mainly considered to be a story for kids, but there are many dark and grim elements present throughout the story that might scare the young readers much more than they were hoping for. I read the book, not as a kid(for which I am immensely grateful, or else the story would have definitely given me nightmares) but overall I found the book to be enjoyable for adults as well.
If the prospect of a spooky story with a brave protagonist, scary villain, alternate universe, and a strange cat excites you, then you should definitely check out Coraline.
is a young writer from India who is currently pursuing Mass Media. Apart from reading and writing, she spends most of her time daydreaming and listening to music. You can find her on Instagram at @aastha.1703