The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Jungle Book for goth kids.
No, the Real Synopsis
After his family is killed, a toddler wanders into the neighboring graveyard. He’s taken in by the residents, raised as one of their own, and taught the ways of the dead.
Genius concept, interesting and endearing characters, great pacing. Crammed full of clever touches and imagination. Occasional passages that are just perfect, such as a stranger describing the boy: “He smelled like a shed. His hair was long and shaggy, and he seemed extremely grave.”
Occasionally reminds the reader that this is a young adult book — the villain revealing the entire back story at the climax, deus ex machinas coming right after the young hero has proven himself and learned a valuable lesson, etc. A climactic point in one of the stories is the hero re-enacting the oldest adventure game puzzle there is, which kind of ruined the story. The ending is tough to take if you’re feeling childless or if you’re separated from your family, and especially tough if you’re both.
My favorite non-Sandman Neil Gaiman story; I think he might be at his best when he’s reinventing.