Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Half World-- Hiromi Goto and Jillian Tamaki

In our universe, there are three realms: there is the realm of flesh, the realm of spirit, and half world. Over the course of time, the three realms have functioned as a piece of the whole, until a rift is formed and half world becomes a grotesque purgatory where twisted creatures lose their humanity and are stuck repeating torturous acts again and again... think Sisyphus from Greek mythology rolling the rock up the hill for all of eternity. One day there is a prophecy: a child of flesh will be impossibly conceived in half world, and will escape, only to return and reestablish balance and order to the realms, thus freeing the trapped souls in half world.

Melanie is an unlikely hero. She's dimwitted, overweight, and woe-begotten. When her mother disappears, she turns to the only friend she's ever had: the old shopkeeper Ms. Wei. With the help of Ms. Wei, a rat, and a murder of crows, Melanie finds her way into half world. Her intention is to save her mother, but in the process she develops more fully into an individual and learns selfless compassion.

Overall, I really enjoyed this creepy/strange book. I am not well-versed in Japanese mythology, so I am curious to know if half world is a creation of Goto or if it's a traditional tale retold. Either way, I am sure this book will be a hit with teens. Although the protagonist is female, there are many elements to this story that will be enticing to boys, and manga and mythology fans will probably like this book. I found it to be well-written, maybe a bit overdramatic in some places but the plot allows for the drama. Jillian Tamaki (illustrator of the awesome graphic novel Skim) adds to the story with her uniquely styles illustrations.

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