99. HALF WORLD, BY HIROMI GOTO
Recommended by Juliana. It was a breath of fresh air after Three Princes... A book that promises something different and actually delivers it!
Synopsis: Melanie, an awkward, chubby, and socially inept teenager, arrives home from school to discover her mother has disappeared. She receives a creepy phone call from a man calling himself Mr. Glueskin, and he gives her a set of instructions to follow if she wants to rescue her mother. Not knowing what to do, she seeks the help of her neighbor, Ms. Wei, and embarks on her adventure.
Overall enjoyment: It was very good. Some parts were a bit rushed, this is one of those rare books that would’ve been better if they were longer, but overall it’s very refreshing and imaginative. Not to say this is a light read, though...
Plot: It is quite well constructed, but it could have been better developed. There are two prologues, and I can’t help but feel that they could have been worked into the story proper, so the reader could piece the information together, rather than given at the beginning. As it is, the story takes a while to start, and some things that could have been plot twists (because Melanie has to discover them) are already known to the reader and you just have to roll your eyes and wait patiently until she figures it out. Also, the quest in itself, the tasks that Melanie has to perform to achieve her goal, are over too soon. She could have fleshed this part out a little bit, have Melanie work for it more. It’s traditional in a quest story, isn’t it? There is one kind of plot hole, though (and not really a plot hole, just something that REALLY should have been explained and isn’t).
Characters: They are well developed enough. Melanie can appear bratty and inconsiderate at times, but that’s just how her character is. Others, like Mr. Glueskin, are supposed to be stereotypes. Once again, there could have been a better development if the book had been longer. I sure would have loved to read more about the Half-World people.
World/setting: There is some amazing world building in here. The three planes of existence are clearly based on Buddhism, but she doesn’t concern herself much with the higher level (or the mortal level, for that matter). The story is set in Half-World, a dreary place full of monstrosities but no color at all. This is an amazing world, even if violent and grotesque.
Writing style: Very concise and straightforward.
Representation: It’s a book about a Japanese character, based on Japanese mythology, written by a Japanese author.
Political correctness: No big gaffes in here. Like all good coming-of-age stories, it tries to give some idea on big concepts, like death, suffering, loss, and justice.
Up next: The Last Illusion, by Porochista Khakpour