Although it took us far too long to read, the book has an interesting ingredient which is probably the fond dream of many readers: a boy who is reading a book becomes a part of the story. Bastian Balthazar Bux has hidden himself away from the world with a stolen book whose title is none other than The Neverending Story. As he reads about the hero Atreyu riding the white luckdragon Falkor in a desperate attempt to save Fantastica from The Nothing that is devouring the country, Bastian comes across oblique references to himself that slowly become more direct and more frequent until he suddenly finds he has left our own world and is a part of the story in Fantastica.
I like this description of the story as "Arabian Nights meets Aesop's Fables meets Grimm's Fairy Tales." The Neverending Story has the same feeling of fantasy and wonder threaded through with morality tales that you'd imagine from such a mix. Also, though it is not a series of stories like those three collections, it does seem to lack cohesion, especially in the second half of the book as Bastian rebuilds Fantastica on wishes and whims.
Most people who love this book refer to the nostalgia it evokes, since they read it as a child. I, too, read it when I was a child. My copy was given to me for my 12th birthday. (Of course I never would have remembered that, but I have proof.) Unfortunately, it was given to me by someone I'd rather forget, so I don't have quite the same feeling of sweet reminiscence as you may have when you reread The Neverending Story.
Even worse, Blur called me a rat. Apparently, to Germans, the term "reading rat" is as innocuous as "bookworm" is to us Americans (and really, cultural context aside, I'd say it's a toss-up as to whether I'd rather be called a worm or a rat). I bet if anyone else had dubbed me The Reading Rat I would have worn the badge with pride in the knowledge that it fit me well. Though I might have preferred a nickname like The Reading Mouse, even if that doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
I can't help but wonder how much more I might have liked The Neverending Story if it had been given to me by someone I cared for and remember with affection. It's similar to disliking a name because it reminds you of an awful person: not the name's fault, but undeniable all the same. Do you have any books where your own personal experience, unrelated to the story itself, left you with a less-than-good feeling about it?