I’m a bit late to comment on Adam Roberts’ critique but this kind of surprised me:
“But The Graveyard Book is too twee, too cosy, especially given that its theme is Death which is, in reality, neither twee or cosy, as some children, and all of us eventually, grievously discover.”
I have a lot of time for Adam, both as a writer and a critic, but the idea The Graveyard Book is about death, or Death as Adam puts it, struck me as just wrong and an uncharacteristically literal interpretation of the text. The Graveyard Book may be set in a graveyard and may feature ghost and ghouls but I took the book’s central theme to be about Life. As evidence I offer the following:
“…Liza’s voice, close to his ear, said, ‘Truly, life is wasted on the living, Nobody Owens. For one of us is too foolish to live, and it is not I. Say you will miss me.’…”
“…’Why can’t I just stay here? In the graveyard?’
‘You must not,’ said Silas, more gently than Bod could remember him ever saying anything. ‘All the people here have had their lives, Bod, even if they were short ones. Now it’s your turn. You need to live.’…”
And finally (because I risk copyright infringement):
“…’Face your life
Its pain, its pleasure,
Leave no path untaken’…”
Maybe I’m missing something?
I could go onto some of the other arguments where I differ from Adam. For example, I am on the record as having loved Little Brother. A predilection that did not prevent me enjoying Adam’s own Swiftly which was, incidentally, one of the best books I’ve read this year. I could expound at length on the futility of arguing against a popular vote based award but I suspect that would be dull and rehash others arguments.
No, all I really wanted to say was what you do with your life is more important than death.
And that, I think, is what another Neil was trying to say.