Half World by Hiromi Goto, beautifully illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
From the publisher:
Melanie Tamaki is an outsider.
Unpopular and impoverished, she is the only child of a loving but neglectful mother. She barely copes with surviving school and life. But everything changes on the day she returns home to find her mother is missing, lured back to Half World by a vile creature calling himself Mr. Glueskin. Soon Melanie embarks on an epic and darkly fantastical journey to Half World to save her mother. What she does not yet realize is that the state of the universe is at stake....
My reading experience:
The cover art is gorgeous; the front jacket folds out for a panoramic image of two Melanies in different stages of her journey. Jillian Tamaki does an incomparable job of illustrating Melanie from references in the story, which is refreshing for YA cover art. The colours are so vivid and there is so much movement in the cover. It attracted me to the book initially, even though I only had an advanced reading copy (which does not wraparound and does not have any of Tamaki's illustrations inside!). Good thing I never got to reading it until it was released! I was missing much of the connection between the illustrations and the narrative; at times pictures will show you what was written down for Melanie to read, which isn't actually written in the text. It gives you the magical feel that Melanie must have when she's discovering these messages as part of the story.
Melanie's story starts at the very beginning for her; her mother is pregnant with her in Half World and she and Melanie's father are scrambling along a cliff, persued by Mr. Glueskin and his freakish posse. They are trying to bridge the divide between Half World and Life (our world) so their baby can live. Half World is like purgatory, a place to go when you die. However, because of past events, the divide between Life, Half World, and Spirit World have become too solid, causing the denizens of HW to remain stuck there, trapped in their most traumatic emotional memories and living them over and over again, unable to move on. The opening scene with Melanie's parents and their flee from Mr. Glueskin, Mr. Glueskin's introduction and their sacrifice, make for wonderfully gripping narrative. It was a great way to start a book.
Horomi Goto's strength is for seemlessly weaving folktale, mythic, dream, and art history images, creating this narrative collage in her setting and characters. And the character of Mr. Glueskin is a formidable bad guy who reminded me of the Pale Man from Pan's Labyrinth. Which is actually a good reference point for Half World; Pan's Labyrinth meets Bosch, Frida Kahlo, Escher, with a dash of A Wrinkle in Time (which I've just read. What a cool experience to have read these two books so close together). And Half World is a very grown up book, with Melanie dealing openly with the nature of true despair and sacrifice. However, HW ends on a hopeful note despite the darkness that came before. Absolutely, there is light in this book.
Here is the dust jacket unfolded, courtesy of hiromigoto.com.