Melanie Tamaki is human—but her parents aren’t. They are from Half World, a Limbo between our world and the afterlife, and her father is still there. When her mother disappears, Melanie must follow her to Half World—and neither of them may return alive.
I’ve now finished book four in the Women of Genre Fiction challenge. Can I just say that, so far, this has been a blast? All four books have been fun to read and have something to recommend. Okay, Frankenstein caused me to roll my eyes a lot more than the other three, but it was still worth reading.
And so was Half World. This book, written by Hiromi Goto, is the first YA title on my list. As you might expect from the blurb above, it’s a dark tale. Melanie is a fourteen-year-old living with her mother in poverty. She’s chubby and doesn’t do well in school, so is labeled a special needs student and is a victim of bullies. Crows seem to like her, though. Coming home from school one day, she finds the hovel she lives in empty and the phone that’s been out of service for months starts ringing. On the other end of the line is our villain, Mr. Glueskin, who tells Melanie she must come to Half World if she ever wants to see her mother again.
And so she does. But not without help. She enters Half World with the aid of a jade rat given to her by a neighbor woman, Ms. Wei, a shopowner who reminds me very much of Mrs. Whatsit from A Wrinkle in Time.
I enjoyed Half World. Melanie felt like a real teenager to me: smarter and braver than she realizes, and yet, capable of complete meltdowns when things just get too much. Half World, too, is really cool. Goto does a good job conveying the vague limbo-ish feel of the place, and the characters who exist there are a hoot–straight out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting–and yet, many of them are not just scenery. Certain scenes in Half World also reminded me of similar scenes in Stephen King’s Song of Susannah (book six of The Dark Tower). Roast suckling pig!
My only serious complaint with the book is, well, the premise. Goto defines Half World as the place everyone goes when they die. This is where Melanie’s parents are when Melanie is conceived, so they are already, presumably, dead.
Dead people conceiving children.
I just don’t buy that. I didn’t buy it in Angel, and I buy it less here. How does that even work?
But I liked Melanie and Ms. Wei so much–and Mr. Glueskin, awesome villain that he is–it was easy for me to just not think about it. (I also try not to think about it in Angel. And season 4 never happened either.) I also loved the illustrations created by Jillian Tamaki. 3.5/5