Hiromi Goto illustrations by Jillian Tamaki
Half World. New York: Penguin Group. 2010
Audience: This book is written for a mature high school audience ranging from 9th-12th grade due to it’s content.
Summary: The book starts off with Melanie’s mother and her lover trying to escape their Realm into the next; that of Half World. She begs the stinky man to let them pass through and he comes up with a “game”. He tells her that he will only allow her to pass and enjoy her maternal life for 14 years before she must return to her lover. If she does not, he says he will make her lover eat his own skin for all of eternity. Years later it jumps to Melanie and her life with her mother. Her mother is very ill and they are living in poverty. One day her mother is gone. Melanie is then forced to take the tough journey back to her mother’s Realm in order to connect with her again. During her journey, she is given the duty of connecting the 3 Realms back together again. The book shows her endeavors, struggles, and choices she had to go through in order to reunite with her mother. At the end of the book, Melanie is on the brink of giving up when she hears some voices telling her to push through it and keep moving forward. She is forced to look very deeply inside of herself in order to find out who she is and what she must overcome. Once this happens, she finds the portal and returns to her Realm; Half World. She hears her mother’s voice telling her she did it. She connected the Realms back together and the binding has been broken.
Themes: One theme this book had to offer was Choices. Choices had a lot to do with events Melanie had to go through. They are what lead her to do what she did. Although choices were tough to make and even harder to overcome, her choices were always made in the right sense and lead her to ultimately look inside herself and know who she is so that the Realms may be joined back together.
Another theme we see here is heroism. Melanie is looked at as being a heroine. She defeats Mr. Glueskin and reunites the 3 Realms back together. She was somewhat of a typical heroine figure in novels. She defeated Mr. Glueskin, sure, but in order to reunite the 3 Realms she had to look deep inside herself and get past the terrible experiences she’s had, the tremendous loss of her parents and her lack of will to live so that the worlds could connect once more. Emotions had a lot to do with her character.
One last theme we see is Spiritualism. This book very obviously had a lot to do with spirits and the fantasy of the 3 worlds in which these spirits live. In the Catholic religion, you are taught about the human world, purgatory, and once judged, heaven or hell. This book had some parallelisms with Melanie’s 3 realms and the Catholic idea of the human world, purgatory and heaven/hell. Spirits are all around Melanie throughout the book and either protect her or wreak havoc on her.
Connections: This book, being fantasy, reminds me very much of anime. Anime is a Japanese written cartoon and Half World included pictures along with a story much like anime. The characters often lack much depth and the story goes on as not to answer every question the reader may have and assumes the reader would be accepting of this fact and move on.
Reactions: This is the part I’ve been waiting for the whole time I have been writing this paper. I really disliked this book. It was very boring to me and I could not get into the story at all. Realistically, this is an easy read considering the page length and the font used, but it was one of the toughest reads for me. It was hard to flip the pages and keep going when I could not get motivated to continue. I am not a fan of the very unrealistic events that occur and the whole thought of the 3 Realms did not particularly amuse me either. I felt the text left a lot of questions unanswered (such as why it is that people do not normally get pregnant in Melanie’s mother’s Realm?). I wanted more depth in Melanie’s character but I did not get it. Perhaps it could be that I was getting frustrated and therefore not allowing myself to find any good in the text. Either way, I did not care for this book whatsoever.
Awards: IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, 2010 Sunburst Award