Charles's Reviews > Half World

Half World by Hiromi Goto
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's review
Dec 22, 2015

really liked it
bookshelves: 2015-challenge, fantasy, stat_2, young-adult, reviewed

Stuff I Read – Half World by Hiromi Goto Review

I've been meaning to read this since reading the author's Hopeful Monsters and seeing her at WisCon and I was rather pumped that the price dropped low enough on Amazon to snag myself a copy (I'm thinking it is out of print and the price varies a lot from week to week). But the book is a YA tale of a young girl, Melanie Tamaki, finding herself in the middle of a completely insane and messed up situation involving the three realms (the material world, the spirit world, and the half world) becoming fractured. The book is good. It's disturbing and dark and it knows how to set the scene and follow through on the promises it makes early on. Merlanie is a relatable kid who gets in over her head, gets frustrated, but ultimately shows the power of forgiveness and kindness in the face of cruelty.

The story begins with Melanie being the target of bullied for being overweight, for not being white, for being more comfortable with books than with people and yet not being especially suited to school. Quickly things start getting out of hand as her mother goes missing and a phantom phone call sets Melanie on the trail of getting to a magical realm she can't even imagine. The descriptions and just the visual style of Half World is strong, captivating, and rather creepy. The twisted creatures that make up the setting are striking and mirror the twisted nature of the place, where people relive their greatest pain until they are well enough to move on. Only now they can't and are stuck reliving their worst traumas over and over again. It is some messed up stuff and it just works rather well, because it complicates the idea of evil in such a place. Mr. Glueskin is indeed a monstrous antagonist, but the story does not make him inhuman. Instead it paints everything in Half World in shapes of muted gray (like it was on purpose or something), making the characters there less able to act morally because of their pain, makes their selfishness and vanity and fear much more understandable.

The supporting cast is rather charming as well, the story populated by small roles that still feel large. Jade Rat is great and I love how the people here are not solely "likable." The book takes pretty clear aim at the idea that a character must be likable to be deserving of compassion. Melanie herself can be rash and spiteful at times, but she seems kindness and, in the end, chooses compassion to guide her rather than malice, rather than hate. There's a great movement for her character, at first concerned only with escape, with herself, and then learning to see the hurt in others and also how to meet cruelty with a power of her own. A power that is stronger than the hate. It's a great message and the novel makes its points artfully and with a dark twist. Half World is haunting and beautiful, surreal but also sweet in many ways. It's a subtle work, and it defies there being easy answers, and in the end that's what I liked about it.

My complaints are few and mostly have to do with the ending. [SPOILERS?] Really, my biggest issue with the story was the way that a woman who didn't want children finds herself pleased to end up having them. Now, I understand the choice to some degree, because yes, yes, minds change, but I dislike the narrative that all women are secretly mothers in waiting and would have liked perhaps to see the character set up a little different, and this probably is more a personal issue with me than something that's wrong or anything [END SPOILERS]. The book is still very strong, the setting and the characters vibrant and weird and the plot crisp and effective. Yes, I say. More please. An 8.5/10.
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Reading Progress

December 22, 2015 – Started Reading
December 22, 2015 – Shelved
December 22, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
December 22, 2015 – Shelved as: 2015-challenge
December 22, 2015 – Shelved as: fantasy
December 22, 2015 – Shelved as: stat_2
December 22, 2015 – Shelved as: young-adult
January 6, 2016 –
page 233
100.0% "A nice read, with a surprising amount of darkness for a YA but that's not a bad thing. Quite good!"
January 6, 2016 – Finished Reading
January 14, 2016 – Shelved as: reviewed

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