Suspension of Disbelief

Suspension of Disbelief: Coraline

Suspension of Disbelief is a weekly feature, in which we review movies, books, TV shows, and other popular culture for the skeptical teen.

Book/Movie: Coraline
Children’s fantasy, horror
Author: Neil Gaiman
Director: Henry Selick (director of Nightmare Before Christmas)

Rating (Book):
5 out of 5 buttons

Rating (Movie): 
4.5 out of 5 buttons

Review: Suspension of Disbelief is back! And, once again, we’re reviewing both a book and a movie.

I first heard of Coraline when the movie came out in 2009. At the time, I thought it looked interesting, but not so much so that I would pay money to go see it in theatres. Now, after reading the book and seeing the movie, I wish I had. Both were fantastic.

Coraline starts of as a pretty typical story: a girl has been uprooted from her home and her friends, and put into a new house. So, naturally, she starts exploring, to help fight the boredom of her new home. There’s an old well, a tangled garden, and several very peculiar old neighbors. And in the old study, there’s a locked door, opened by a black key. At first look, it only has a brick wall behind it. But later that night, after her parents fall asleep, the girl, Coraline, hears some strange noises, and the next day the crazy neighbors have odd warnings: “You are in grave danger”, “Don’t go through the little door.” Of course, the next night, Coraline opens the little door again… and finds a world where her other parents always have time for her, where nothing is ever boring, and where she could always be happy. The only thing odd is that all the people and animals have buttons for eyes. And it turns out that that’s far from all that’s wrong with the world…

Coraline, as both a book and a movie, is designed to be a children’s story, so it’s a very fast read, and the movie is animated. However, the depth of the story makes it completely engaging for older readers as well. I literally read the whole book in one sitting, as I became more and more engrossed in the plot twists and the fantastic world Gaiman weaves with his words. I cannot thing of a single thing about this book I didn’t like: the characters, particularly Coraline, felt very real, the scary parts had me on the edge of my seat, and the uplifting parts were truly beautiful. In movie form, a bit of this impact was lost, particularly in the victories at the end. The conclusion felt rushed in the movie form. However, the animation and visualization of the world behind the door nearly makes up for it. The introduction of a new character, Wybie, adds an interesting (if somewhat unnecessary) dynamic to the movie as well, building in a little more suspense about the secrets of the world behind the door. There are a few other minor differences, where scenes are rearranged or lines are given to different characters than in the book, but overall, the only disappointment was the rushed feel of the final victories.

Another great thing about this story is Coraline’s explorer attitude and skepticism. She wants to know all about both her new home and the secret world she finds, and through that exploration, she starts to discover what’s wrong. She’s also skeptical enough not to be drawn in by the other mother’s promises and “wonders”; she asked why and how at all the right times. She’s willing to believe what she sees only to a point, and is cautious about making any promises herself. Because of that, and the overall quality of the story itself, I highly recommend you both read and watch Coraline; especially for a children’s tale, it is well worth your time.

Image Sources: OpenLibrary, Wikipedia

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Ali Marie

Ali Marie

Ali Marie is a recent Master's of Education graduate, and is now venturing back into the world of non-traditional education, as an outreach program leader at a children's museum. Her interests vary widely, but include board games, music, dinosaurs, and science as a whole.

You can find Ali on Twitter, @ascientifica.


  1. November 15, 2011 at 2:50 pm —

    I love Coraline! I must have read that book about three times. Still haven’t watched the movie, though. I must do that some time.

    • November 15, 2011 at 3:58 pm —

      Coraline was the first 3-D movie I saw in a theater, and it set the bar so high that no other movie has even come close for me. The story was awesome and it had the visual effects to match.

      • November 15, 2011 at 6:11 pm —

        Ah, that movie would have been even cooler in 3D. I watched it online, so normal 2D for me, but still, I really liked it. I liked the book better, but that’s nearly always how it goes for me.
        I think Coraline is my favorite Gaiman story so far… American Gods was good, but not the most spectacular thing I’ve read. His Doctor Who episode was pretty glorious, though.

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