30 May 2011

Book Review: Between Two Ends

Title: 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?


  1. Sounds like a fun book! But I agree, middle grade novels aren't always my thing. Some of them are just fantastical and wonderful, but others are a bit simplistic for my taste. Glad this one was enjoyable overall, though. =) I do love the idea of being able to enter a book.

  2. A couple years ago, I really liked middle grade fiction (though not paranormal, and I tended to gravitate towards Newberry sorts of books), but as my kids have gotten older, I can't read it at all anymore. I guess probably because I'm already spending all my time with kids that age, so I don't want to in book. :D

  3. great review, I have an ARC I hope to read soon

  4. woo! this sounds fabs. i've been on a huge middle grade trick as of late and i'm loving every minute of it. this will have to come soon!

  5. I think middle grade is the biggest challenge to review of ANY other group! It is that age for which "good" is totally irrelevant compared to such attributes as "silly" "improbable" "fantastical" or who knows what. Generally when I do an MG book I feel at my most insecure, and wish I had an MG kid around to share his or her reaction with me!

  6. I don't think I'd recognize a MG book if it bit me on the butt. I'm starting to forget what YA looks like, too.

  7. Sounds like a fun read but I'm with you--MG leaves me a little flat. As a result, I don't read much of it. I like the premise of this one, though.

  8. While I am starting to dip my toes into the YA genre, I don't think that I will be reading much literature targeted at middle grade readers for a lot of the reasons that you mention. I have read a few, but i think it's the lack of depth and emotional substance that really gets to me. Thanks for your honest and insightful review on this one.

  9. I am the complete opposite of you: I love MG fantasy and just "like" YA. I think Between Two Ends is probably a book for me. ;-)

  10. There are lots of similarities with the Inkheart trilogy, but Between Two Ends is lighter, doesn't take itself too seriously and is a simply a fun adventure.Thanks


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