Death the High Cost of Living by Neil Gaiman



Death the High Cost of Living by Neil Gaiman ISBN: 978-1563891335, Vertigo (June 1, 1994).

Plot Summary:

Meet Didi, a perky young goth girl who insists that she is the living incarnation of Death, one of the Endless, a pantheon of powers that rule the destiny of man. Once every one hundred years, Death must take on mortal form for one day in order to taste the bitter tang mortality in order to better understand what she takes from mortals. Rather than seeing this as a dreaded obligation, Didi embraces life, and takes pleasure in the smallest acts. Didi meets Sexton, who wants to commit suicide, and together they embark on a journey of discovery.

Critical Evaluation: 

It is impossible to read this three issue miniseries without being in awe of both Neil Gaiman’s and Chris Bachalo’s ability to communicate the essential elements of a story through each panel. Gaiman’s style is masterful and understated. He keeps the story small – the characters do not undergo any radical transformation and their main obstacles are not so impressive. Sexton is a teenager doesn’t have any real problems, but who wants to commit suicide simply because there in nothing that interests him in his life. Didi is able to show him the small things about life that are worth living for. Didi’s ability to embrace life makes her an extremely lovable character and Sexton does fall for her, but in the end is willing to wait until his time is up to see her again. Although Didi wishes her time as a mortal would never end, she realizes that it is bitter sweet inevitability of death that makes life all the more beautiful and precious.

Information about the author:

Neil Gaiman was born in Hampshire, UK, and now lives in the United States near Minneapolis.  As a child he discovered his love of books, reading, and stories, devouring the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, James Branch Cabell, Edgar Allan Poe, Michael Moorcock, Ursula K. LeGuin, Gene Wolfe, and G.K. Chesterton.  A self-described “feral child who was raised in libraries,” Gaiman credits librarians with fostering a life-long love of reading: “I wouldn’t be who I am without libraries. I was the sort of kid who devoured books, and my happiest times as a boy were when I persuaded my parents to drop me off in the local library on their way to work, and I spent the day there. I discovered that librarians actually want to help you: they taught me about interlibrary loans.”

Neil Gaiman is credited with being one of the creators of modern comics, as well as an author whose work crosses genres and reaches audiences of all ages.  He is listed in the Dictionary of Literary Biography as one of the top ten living post-modern writers and is a prolific creator of works of prose, poetry, film, journalism, comics, song lyrics, and drama.  

Reader’s Annotation:

Once every one hundred years, Death must take on mortal form in order to taste the bitter tang mortality.


Graphic novel.

Curriculum Ties:


Booktalking Ideas:

If death were a person, what do you think it would look like? Neil Gaiman imagined death as perky, goth teen.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Grades 9 and up

Challenge Issues:

Suicide. Paganism. 

I would make sure that all material was purchased in accordance with my library’s collection development policy and make sure to keep a file containing positive reviews for books that I thought might be challenged. In the event of a challenge, I would actively listen to the parent’s concern and ask if they had read the book. I would then explain why the book had been added to the collection and provide with the reviews and a copy of the collection development policy. I would affirm that they are within their rights to limit what their children read, but that other parents also have the right to determine what their children can read. If all else failed, I would provide the parent with a reconsideration form.

Reasons for inclusion:

Neil Gaiman is one of the greatest writers of this generation.


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