Book: Hiromi Goto, Half World. New York: Penguin Group. 2009
Audience: Ages 12-17
Summary: Melanie is a 14 year old girl living with her single mother in a low income lifestyle; she is taunted by her peers and seen as unintelligent and overweight. Her mother cannot maintain a job for longer then a few months and can barely keep food on the table. After a typical day filled with ridicule by her peers, Melanie comes home to an empty house and quickly realizes her mother has disappeared with no sign of where she has gone. After she receives an eerie phone call from Mr.Glueskin, a mad man living in the realm of the half world who has kidnapped her mother, it is up to Melanie to save, not only her mother, but all of humanity and create peace between all realms of the living and the dead. Traveling through Half World Melanie realizes that the creatures living there are forced to relive their deaths over and over and in order to release her mother she must take down Mr. Glueskin once and for all. With help from members of the realm of the flesh, as well as members of Half World, Melanie defeats Mr.Glueskin and releases the victims of Half World from constant torture.
Read Aloud: read aloud!
Fear of the Unknown: In order to save her mother, Melanie must embark on an adventure in a land unknown to her. Every corner she turns holds new fears she must overcome and surprises she would have never predicted. In the beginning of the novel she is angry and unsure of her ability to conquer Mr.Glueskin and take on the Half World as a living being; as the novel continues her fear persists but she gains faith in her ability to overcome her fear when her mother needs her the most. Though she is terrified of every new challenge she encounters in Half World and in the Realm of the Flesh by the end of the novel she gains confidence in her ability as a human being and is daring and willing to face her fears in order to save the ones she loves.
Companionship: When Melanie was forced to save her mother from the terrible Mr.Glueskin she turned to her only friend, an elderly shop keeper named Ms.Wei, for assistance. Without Ms.Wei and other friends she had made during her journey into the Realm of Half World she could not have defeated Mr.Glueskin and created peace amongst the realms. In the beginning of the novel Melanie believed she only needed her mother and relied on no one else for comfort; when first entering Half World Melanie was angry and resistant to the help she received from creatures in this new realm. As the novel continued Melanie came to realize the relationships she formed with others in this realm, in combination with the relationship she had in the Realm of the Flesh, were very important to her and her survival. By the end of the novel she was no longer resistant to help from outsiders and she took comfort in the knowledge that they were their to help her succeed in the challenges she faced in both realms.
Connections: The connection I made with this book was to other fantasy novels, such as Harry Potter, because of the emphasis on the setting. The author spent a lot of time creating enough description of each world as to assure the readers can imagine it well and distinctly. Other fantasy novels I have read do the same and I feel this is important to this genre because setting is a large part of what places a novel in the fantasy genre. The setting in Half World as well as other fantasy novels are mostly unlike the world readers live in and the plot line comes secondary to the description and explanation of the setting.
Reaction: I enjoyed this novel very much! I have not read many fantasy novels but I really enjoy the genre a lot. I loved how mythology was incorporated into the story and the way that the author created the different worlds captured me. I was unable to put this book down and each page was something new and exciting! I felt like I was on the journey with Melanie and was so proud of what she overcame by the end of the book.
A review from GoodReads by Liza appreciated how the book crafted. She thought the author did a good job a depicting the creatures in Half World and having a great imagination yet found no connection to any of the characters. Though she believed the book was written well she did not enjoy it very much.
“Technically, this is a well-written book. Half World tells the adventure of a girl named Melanie who is part of a prophecy about Limbo-like world called Half World. Half World has gotten stuck, or broken, and Melanie is supposed to fix it. Along the way she meets truly odd creatures, like the woman who has eels for arms, as she must save the world by putting Limbo back in order.
Goto certainly created a world full of creatures and events I could never imagine. Mr. Glueskin definitely added creepiness to the tale. The reason I can’t think better of this book is that I couldn’t connect with a single character. I can see how well-done this book is, but I can’t feel it.”
Another Review from GoodReads by Emily saw Half World as a promising YA novel. She was very satisfied by the ending yet lacked connection to the characters. She felt that the characters were not as developed as they should have been. For younger readers she felt this book is something that they could enjoy but would need further development for older readers.
“I love the cover of this book and I love the setting. The black and white drawings by Tamaki are superb. I really liked the ending. I just didn’t like the lack of depth that Goto put into the book. Background is everything. Character development is important, and there just wasn’t enough for Melanie and her mother to make me really understand or care about either one. This has the potential to be a classic in YA fantasy, to be groundbreaking work. At some levels I think it may be. However, the one-dimensional characters are going to hurt this book for older readers or anyone who wants more from their fantasy.”