Literary Criticism and Significance
Coraline was published in 2002 by British fantasy author Neil Gaiman. Although Gaiman had already achieved critical and popular acclaim for his works of adult fantasy in the novel and graphic novel formats, Coraline was his first major work for children. Critics heralded the book as an innovative, modern, frightening children’s fantasy that could be appreciated just as much by adult readers. The novel won a number of awards, including the 2003 Hugo and Nebula awards for best novella. The book also won the 2003 Locus Award for Best Young Adult novel, the 2002 British Science Fiction Award for Best Short Fiction, and the 2002 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Work for Young Readers. In addition, Coraline was nominated for the 2002 World Fantasy Award for best novella. Notably, the book was considered and recognized in awards for both young and adult readers.
In a review for The Guardian, distinguished children’s author Philip Pullman called Coraline “a marvelously strange and scary book” and praised it as a clever, rich story that offers many possible meanings for the reader. In Strange Horizons, Tim Pratt called Coraline Gaiman’s “crowning accomplishment.” Coraline also received positive reviews from such publications as USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, theChristian Science Monitor, and SFGate.
Although critics’ reactions to Coraline were overwhelmingly positive, the book did receive a few negative reviews. In a review for Powells.com, Chris Bolton said the prose was “plainer than one expects from Gaiman” and the characters less than intriguing. In The Independent,Nicholas Tucker deemed the story unworthy of the phrase it had received from such writers as Terry Prachett and Diana Wynne Jones.
On the whole, however, Coraline was extremely successful and has even become something of a cultural phenomenon, launching a movie, video game, and graphic novel adaptations. Overall, Coraline has been embraced by readers and critics as an innovative, deliciously frightening update of the classic children’s fantasy genre, a book that provides ample food for thought for both young and adult readers.