FICTION

The World on Either Side

Orca. Sept. 2019. 288p. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781459822177.
COPY ISBN
Gr 8 Up–Sixteen-year-old Valentine has found it extremely difficult to get over the death of her boyfriend Amir, so much so that she refuses to get out of bed, go to school, or see her friends—and she attempts suicide. To help her daughter recover, Valentine’s mother forces her to go on a trek through Thailand where she encounters extreme physical danger, makes new friends, begins to love both a boy and a baby elephant, and finds the courage to go on. Set in the area of Thailand that borders Myanmar (Burma), Valentine encounters members of the Karen tribes and learns of the conflict between them and the Myanmar government army that is engaged in a genocidal war. Thereby lies some of the issues of the book. While the research is apparent, the book contains no source notes or acknowledgments. Also, some of the items presented as facts are only partially true. A brief explanation of the conflict as a preface or author’s note would have been a nice addition to supplement the narrative and to introduce readers to the conflict that forms one of the main plots of the book. While the novel attempts to put the events into context, it also has such complexity for a fairly short book that the author often defaults to preachiness in order to get her lesson across. The characters are well developed but not always believable.
VERDICT While this is an exciting read with a compelling plot, it’s not recommended because of its flaws.

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