Hiromi Goto. Half World. New York: Penguin Group, 2010.
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Fiction.
Audience: 12 and up
Read Aloud: Coming soon!….Here!
Summary: Half World is a story about a 14 year old girl named Melanie who is caught up in a clash between the different realms in her world. The three realms are the realm of the spirit, the realm of the flesh, and half world. The realm of the flesh is where people live out their lives, then they die and go to half world until they achieve spirit and move on to the realm of the spirit. Melanie’s mother escaped with her to the realm of the flesh so that she could have Melanie safely away from the chaos that has become half world. Melanie’s mother must return to half world, so Melanie embarks on a journey to the unknown world in order to save her parents and return order to the three realms.
Themes: A major theme that plays in this book is bravery/sacrifice. There are many scenes from the book that go along with this theme. The people must bite off their little fingers in order to pass between the two worlds. Also, Melanie’s mother must be brave and leave her husband behind in order to save their unborn child.
Another theme in Half World is identity. Melanie struggles with school and has a hard time making friends. She always wishes that she was one of her smarter or stronger classmates so that she would be able to save her mother, yet she still manages to be the hero of the story. Melanie first becomes more acceptable of who she is when she tries to figure out the prophecy and others take interest into what she is saying. Melanie also is unsure of her mother’s identity in the beginning of the book. She seems like she knows that there is something odd about her mom, and she eventually comes to understand that she is not from her world.
Connections: I think that this book would be good to teach students because of the bravery and identity theme. Bullying is a huge issue in schools today, and this book could be taught in a way that shows Melanie becoming better than the bullies. A teacher could point out her bravery in many situations that show her standing up to others in order to achieve her goals. We could also focus on the points in the story where Melanie wishes she could be somebody else, and then her coming to terms with who she is and not wanting to be anybody else.
Reactions: I definitely had mixed feelings about this book. Throughout the first half of Half World, I was extremely bored. The plot moved a little slow and nothing much was happening. Even when she made it to Half World it was interesting to see the different crazy things going on, but nothing much was happening. I was also extremely angry that her dad had become a drunken idiot in only 14 years of being without his wife and child. The story got better when Mr. Glueskin finds out that Melanie is in Half World though. There is mystery that needs to be solved and scarier things that keep the pages turning quickly. Overall I would say that it would be easy for a student reading this to not make it through the whole book, but if they are interested in what happens in the end at all, they will not be disappointed.
Reception: One review from Strange Horizons talked about the pace of the novel as I have earlier. Michael Levy writes, “What starts out as a breathless search for her mother, soon develops into an archetypal, touching, and oddly believable voyage of self-discovery.” This goes along with what I said before about how the story turns into a whole new exciting book when there is more mystery and suspense in Half World.
In the same review, Levy writes about the descriptions of the denizens of Half World. He has many quotes in the article that show the great descriptions Goto uses to build the realm of Half World into a world that readers can visualize quite easily.