2016 Reading Challenge: Book 31


Book 31- A book with a one-word title: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman’s writing is a bit of honest-to-goodness magic brought to the world of mere mortals by some stroke of luck. There’s something about his writing that enchants me to the point where the world ceases to exist until I have finished the last page of his books. If that’s not magic in this crazy, workaday world, I don’t know what is. His writing transports me to another world full of wicked humor, disorienting reversals of reality (by challenging what is and what could be), and deeply endearing characters. Neil Gaiman is a master of his craft; he utilizes common elements of the Fantasy genre and completely recreates them into a fresh, original take in the fantastic worlds he imagines and paints beautifully for his readers.

In Neverwhere, we meet the completely average young Richard Mayhew. To put it mildly, he’s a hot mess. Like any of us on a typical day–he locks himself out of the apartment by accident, probably has his shirt on inside out and doesn’t realize throughout the day, always about ten minutes late for appointments, etc. He has a mid-level job, makes a mid-level salary, has a decent but relatively low-key life. He’s in love with a girl way out of his league and isn’t meeting up to her expectations, but is so in love with her that he doesn’t see it. Richard is pretty much the most average, every-man character you could ever hope to start a fantastic journey with. Everything changes when a mysterious girl enters his life and a random act of kindness jars his perception of reality and the world in which he lives. Gaiman takes us, alongside Richard, to a place where people go when they “fall between the cracks.” It is a familiar yet terrifying echo of our own world, belonging at once nowhere and everywhere…Neverwhere. Once you have seen it, you can never go back…or can you? Join Richard and his band of castaways as they uncover and attempt to thwart a mysterious and deadly plot to destroy this alternate version of reality.

In response to the reviewers who claim that Richard “doesn’t really change or grow;” under the layer of brilliantly, well-written fantasy and the dark and at times punny humor, lies the moral of the story and the summation of Richard’s growth:

Sometimes life is bigger than yourself. At times, you will have to force yourself out of your comfort zone, even face some big fears to help others and make the bigger picture complete. This is the only way we can change and grow as people, and inflict necessary change upon our world. It’s okay to be scared; it’s not okay to be passive.

Embrace your weird. Love who you are and understand that the only way to have an enjoyable stay on this planet (or any other alternate reality, as the case may be) is to embrace the person you are rather than trying to force yourself to fit into an idea of what you should be.

You can’t go back. Change is inevitable. We all know this. Yet so often, we make ourselves miserable trying to retrain our minds and hearts to return to a place that we simply cannot go after life has taught us valuable lessons and changed us inexorably. Even if we are given a magic golden ticket to return to childhood, we could never enjoy it the same way we did back then because of what we know now. Learn to embrace that and face forward rather than always struggling to go backward. Only then can you truly find happiness and find your place in the world.

The simplest way I can describe Gaiman’s writing is this: the magical possibility and suspension of disbelief similar to Rowling’s Harry Potter series but for grownups with cursing and bawdy humor.


About alycemsustko

Reader, writer, catmom extraordinaire
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