Today in Young People's Fantasy: A YA Lit Round-Up 


In the early 00s, as Harry Potter hit full-fledged pan-cultural myth status, journalists spoke of the series' "halo effect." Potter's success, the argument went, wasn't just good for Scholastic (which was busy tangibly personifying Potter-mania through construction of its Soho headquarters, aka "the house that Harry built"); it had got people back into reading, and, just maybe, would save the publishing industry from extinction.

It didn't turn out that way. Similar efforts that followed Potter (notably 2004's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel) didn't approach its cultural penetration, making it seem like an impossible yardstick until Twilight. The series did have a halo effect, however, among writers of young adult fantasy, who found themselves suddenly employable, and that trend continues in 2010, as the third generation of Potter fallout brings us two new YA fantasy efforts and the return of an old favorite.

Half World, by Japanese-Canadian author Hiromi Goto, delivers a welcome slew of bizarre images that argue in favor of the Potter effect—if Harry Potter had to take over the world to enable readers to discover a villain named "Mr. Glueskin," then so be it. The novel, sparsely illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, follows a teenager named Melanie Tamaki (no relation, presumably) as she journeys through the titular limbo fantasyland in search of her missing mother.

Half World is "a place of dark shadows, jumbled silhouettes of cities and jungles, forests and villages." If that's difficult to picture, it's because Goto's world has no real rules of physics: bridges made of crows appear out of nowhere as stairs go up and down at the same time. Fortunately we get the compelling Mr. Glueskin, an evil variant of Mister Fantastic who says things like "I'm not FREAKING FINISHED" and "After the ceremony, she'll be our roast suckling pig" (with reference to Melanie, who has a weight issue that goes curiously unmined over the course of the novel).

The Story of Cirrus Flux, by Matthew Skelton, sets itself more firmly on Earth, in 18th-Century London. Young Cirrus, stuck in a familiarly unaccommodating orphanage, possesses a necklace containing a substance called the "Breath of God" whose nature is never fully explained. (His father discovered it in Antarctica.) When nefarious forces come after it, he needs the help of a fellow orphan named Pandora to keep it safe.

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