Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things by Ted Naifeh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Courtney Crumrin has a very informative preface by Kelly Crumrin, addressing the inherent scariness of childhood. It gave me something to think about. I know I was a kid that loved reading scary books, although I admit I did get a bit too scared a time or two. One part of his commentary that hit me hard was that he felt the collective conscious of children picked up on the real monsters that prey on children in the world. I didn't like to think about that, because I hate the idea of children being harmed or suffering. However, I can see some logic to his comment that childhood nebulous fears might be a manifestation of a subconscious awareness of what real children face.
With that thought-provoking beginning to this graphic novel collection, I had some higher expectations but also that this volume would 'go there.' It did. I'm not sure how I feel about some of the plot elements. I stand strongly against children being harmed or killed, and there is one aspect that felt so wrong to me in this book. I kept wondering why Courtney didn't use the power she gained over the goblin for a different result. I do feel that there was a bit of nihilism to this graphic novel, and that's something I just can't go for. Courtney has had a tough life, and her parents are beneath contempt. I can see things from her viewpoint and accept that she didn't get a very good moral foundation for her life, and that certainly affects her choices. I did cheer for her that she pursued her baby sitting charge into the Goblin Market, even though she did it for selfish reasons. The result of that didn't hit me with the right note, although the faerie enthusiast in me loved a look at the inhabitants of the Market, not to mention the changeling folklore and a talking cat (not sure I want my own cats to be able to talk, since they'd probably cuss me out). One thing I did like about this novel is how it addresses the situations that kids face everyday: bullying, isolation and ostracism, and parents who aren't sufficiently involved in their day to day sufferings (for whatever reasons). Of course I hope most parents are better at parenting than Courtney's but I acknowledge that good parents can have so much going on that they don't have the energy to address issues that seem so trivial like being mildly bullied or feeling like a social outcast. I was bullied and I know how that felt. I know my mother cared, but how much could she do, day to day? And children are very creative in their cruelty. Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and get through it. In a lot of instances, parental interference can make it worse, although there are certainly times when a parent definitely needs to step in.
I didn't like Courtney's dabbling in witchcraft at all. I have an aversion to witchcraft, so that's part of it. I don't have an issue with magic in the abstract sense, but I really dislike the use of spells to control people (which is the crux of my dislike of witchcraft), which is what Courtney was doing. At least, the author shows the negative results of this, and has Courtney's Great-Great Grand-Uncle step in.
One of the things I wasn't keen on with this book was the ambiguous and somewhat unresolved and rather dark endings. Yeah, yeah, that's the whole theme of this book, I know. Maybe this is going back to the overall theme of the inherent darkness of childhood. I am more of an upbeat ending girl, even as a fan of horror. I think you can have horror and still get a sense of hope, and in the case of Courtney's situations, I don't feel that much hope, even when the original crisis is somewhat resolved.
Will I continue to read this series? Probably, but not back to back. It's a bit too dark to pile these on one after another. I wish this was in color, but I did like the drawings and the manner in which the character personality is conveyed. And I loved Courtney's hair so much!
Overall, this was pretty good, but I didn't love it, for the reasons above. It's definitely an appropriate choice to read in the month of October for an atmospheric and horror-esque book. Or just anytime if you like books that are dark in theme with younger characters.
I think that this book is for readers over 11, more or less okay for the middle grade/juvenile age group.
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