30 May 2011
Book Review: Between Two Ends
Author: David Ward
Publisher/Year: Abrams / 2011
Date Finished: 30 May 2011
Source/Format: NetGalley / ebook
Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid
The Short and Sweet of It
A middle grade fantasy, Between Two Ends takes readers on a trip into 1001 Nights as the young protagonist, Yeats, attempts to save Shari who has been lost in the story for twenty years.
A Bit of a Ramble
The concept of going into books is one I (and probably most readers) very much appreciate. The thought of actually entering our favorite stories, of interacting with the characters, smelling the air, touching the objects, tasting the food, tantalizes. I am not sure if it was my first experience with this conceit, but the most memorable for me is Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair, the first book in the Thursday Next series. While in Fforde's series, the ability to enter books, multiple books, is central to world building, in Between Two Ends, it is merely a conceit to tell an adventure tale.
Yeats accompanies his father and mother on a "revitalization" trip, one of his father's sporadic attempts to break free from a depression (and a confusion) which has been plaguing him for most of his life. This trip is the big one, a return to the house where it all started, a last ditch effort to save himself and his marriage. Yeats understands the importance of the trip and wishes for nothing more than to keep his family together. When he gets the opportunity to help by bringing back the girl lost to his father twenty years ago, he winds up in Arabia searching for Shaharazad (Shari).
From that point on, the book is pure adventure with swashbuckling pirates, scimitar wielding palace guards, talking panthers, and daring escapes. All of this action seems fitting and effective for a middle grade novel, and I believe that the intended audience will enjoy the fast-pace and the unique adventures. And I must say, I quite enjoyed it too.
More and more, though, I am realizing that while I tend to love YA fantasy, middle grade is really not my bag. I enjoy the stories, but the lack of depth leaves me feeling rather meh. Too often character motivations feel superficial, cause-effect relationships seem rushed or the result of lucky coincidence, and world building revolves around the action instead of taking on a life of its own. Clearly this is not a "problem" with the book as it is entirely appropriate for the intended audience - which is not a 31 year old.
Despite the fact that I rarely fall in love with middle grade fiction, I do enjoy a story which I can sit down and tear through in one sitting, and Between Two Ends certainly allowed me to do so.
As a side note, the end left the door wide open for a sequel.
Cassandra, over at Indie Reader Houston, put together an absolutely fantabulous video review of the book:
Question: What other books play off the premise of entering the world of books?