From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up—A prophecy tells that only a child born of the lifeless Half World can reunite the three worlds of Flesh, Spirit, and the Half World that have been split asunder. Enter Melanie Tamaki, fleeing from some school bullies. She arrives home to find that her mother, bedridden when she left for school, is mysteriously gone. Melanie receives a creepy phone call from someone demanding that she go to the "Half World" or else her mother will be hurt. She turns to elderly Mrs. Wei for help and, from her, hears of the prophecy. Mrs. Wei feeds her and gives her a pendant of a jade rat. So fortified, Melanie sets off on her quest. Her mother has collected the artwork of Escher and Bosch and, upon arrival in Half World, Melanie begins to understand why. In this world literally bereft of color every being is grotesque, most barely recognizable as human at all. Cast among these horrors, Melanie must remain hidden until she can rescue her mother and somehow save the three realms. Goto has created an unusual fantasy horror novel that's something like a Gaiman tale with a dash of Asian magic. Readers who want a different kind of fantasy and who like a villain who makes the skin crawl should enjoy this quick read. It's a rare treat and belongs in most YA collections.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
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Goto’s contemporary fantasy is set primarily in Half World, where souls go after leaving the Realm of Flesh for a cleansing experience before passage to the Realm of Spirit. Long ago, though, something happened to throw this order out of whack, and Half World has since been twisted into a Hieronymus Bosch–like purgatory, where inhabitants are terrorized by the perverted machinations of the evil Mr. Glueskin. The story sends 14-year-old Melanie into Half World to save her mother. There, she must almost literally wade through a sea of hideous creatures, propelled by prophetic hints about being the child who can realign the realms and bring peace to untold numbers of tortured souls. Although the nightmarish world is certainly memorable, Goto is prone to melodramatic overwriting, and the logic governing the realms is confusing. Most unusual, and interesting, is her heroine, who is often the exact opposite of plucky, burdened by paralyzing bouts of self-doubt, worry, and despair. Sporadic illustrations from Tamaki (Skim, 2008) add delicate nuance to the largely dark but ultimately cathartic journey. Grades 7-10. --Ian Chipman