Today I am participating in the A More Diverse Universe tour to raise awareness of POC authors in the fantasy and sci-fi genres. This is Aarti’s brainchild, and you can read more about it on her announcement post. To see a list of all of the participants, check out this post.
Aarti’s announcement post included some suggested authors, and although I did some research and considered other authors, I ended up choosing one of her original suggestions…Hiromi Goto. Why? Well, for no other reason than I liked the expression on her face. I have known a few people whose face (to me) just radiates serenity and happiness…it’s a look that is mesmerizing to me. Whether or not the person is really serene and happy is another story (and in Goto’s case, it could be said that it’s a mask hiding an evil genius for disturbing characters). But when I saw Goto’s picture, my first thought was that she had The Look. So, that’s how I ended up reading Half World. Partly for the story. And partly for The Look. Yes, yes. I know I’m weird.
To quote Goto’s website, “Hiromi is an active member of the literary community, a writing instructor, editor and the mother of two (big) children. She has served in numerous writer-in-residencies and is currently in BC, working on an adult novel and a graphic novel.” There’s a great interview with her over at indiebound that I recommend, as well as this blog post which is incredibly apropos.
Now…on to the book.
Half World is the story of Melanie Tamaki, a young girl who is pretty much an outcast. She has no friends and a mother who has checked out. One day she returns home from school to find her mother has disappeared. Then she gets a mysterious and threatening phone call (on a disconnected line…cue Twilight Zone music). Come back to Half World, Mr. Glueskin says. Or else. And so the scary times begin.
I’ll let the character Gao Zhen Xi explain Half World:
“The Three Realms-the Realm of Spirit, the Realm of Flesh, and Half World-are meant to be connected. We should move from one to the other, in due time, as each individual lives, dies, half lives, then becomes Spirit. But someone or something divided the sacred cycle, dooming our Realms to an ungenerative deterioration. I don’t know why! I don’t know why!” (p. 100)
Melanie ends up on a quest through Half World to save her mother, and to return the Realms to the connected state that is supposed to be. Of course, Melanie has NO IDEA what she is doing, but she finds some helpful (albeit odd) friends to help her stand against the evil Mr. Glueskin, a baddie of the highest (not to mention most disgusting) order.
While I normally avoid comparing authors to other authors, I’m gonna do it with this book. But I’m not comparing the writing, just the mood. It was like reading Geek Love and Charles de Lint at the same time. Fantastical almost creature-like people (like Geek Love but not) in a dreamlike setting (like de Lint but not). So I ended up with that same disgusted appreciation for the characters I had throughout Geek Love and that same dreamy happiness that de Lint inspires that makes me sad when the book is over.
AAAAAAAND. There are illustrations. Major bonus points for illustrations. Not that the book needs bonus points. I truly lucked out in my choice (hah…maybe I should choose all my reads based upon the expression on the author’s face). The illustrations are by Jillian Tamaki (yes, just like Melanie) and look like this:
Only the ones inside the book aren’t in color. But that’s probably a good thing. Who wants to see Mr. Glueskin in color???
This is Teen book (long aside: I actually checked this out at the library. When I asked the librarian where the YA (and I said Y-A) section was, he looked at me with a blank face. “Young Adult?” I tried. And then I swear he sneered, “The Teen section is over there.” Ass.).
Anyhoosie. I wouldn’t classify it as solely YA (or even Teen). This is one of those smartly written YA books that will appeal equally to teens and adults. Go Goto.