Book Review: Amulet (graphic novel book 1: The Stonekeeper) by Kazu Kibuishi

While shopping for holiday gifts for a raffle basket, I came across this book randomly at Walmart of all places. I read the first several pages while my kids were choosing books for the gift basket, and I fell in love with the artwork and the strong emotional hook (spoilers in the next paragraph, but they happen in the very beginning). But the second half of the book did not meet my expectations.

The main character, Emily, loses her dad in an accident (which we get to see). The scene pulls on our heartstrings (and made me question whether my daughter would be ready to read this book). However, it was a strong enough emotional hook to make me think the book was going to do bold things throughout.

When I did have time to read the rest of the book (which I received as a gift after telling my family about the opening), I was disappointed. Granted, I know there are many more books in the series, so maybe some of what I was hoping for are contained in the continuation of the series, but I found the storyline to be generic and superficial after the initial pages.

The story at first reminds me of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. After the death of Emily’s father, we skip ahead a few years, and her mother moves Emily and her brother Navin to a spooky house that has been in the family. Some weird stuff happens right away, and their mother is kidnapped. Emily must decide in a split second whether she wants to be the keeper of the stone, accepting possession of an amulet that has the power to help save everything.

While the novel opened with some heavy emotions, I thought Emily finding and accepting of the amulet was cliché and shallow. Although the artwork was amazing and carried me through the entire book, I was looking for character development and emotions. But Emily accepted the amulet too readily, she learned how to use it too easily. I was looking for maybe connections to her personality, maybe a hesitancy to accept the stone (her brother begs her not to for about 2 seconds, and she ignores him). I was also hoping for some insights linked to her dad—she lost her dad, and that must leave a huge scar, but I wanted to see how she was working to push past the emotions. Did she remember something her dad told her when she went to accept the amulet? We never know; the story doesn’t go into depth that way. We just see their actions.

There are two strange creatures following the protagonists, but they are explained somewhat easily (one ends up saving them), and the bunny creature they find at their relatives’ house makes the story seem too juvenile and flat.

So to me, the balance of the book is off: the strong and powerful emotions of the book’s opening are a promise to readers who expect depth and a turnoff to those who want a more juvenile tale. The second half of the book contradicts the first, so there is a mismatch between the opening and the remainder of the tale. My daughter would be terrified by the tale’s opening, but she (first grade) would likely enjoy the action of the rest of the tale. For me, its’ the opposite. I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has read the rest of the series. Does more depth happen later?

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