Sunday, April 18, 2010

Review: The Great Blue Yonder by Alex Shearer

I don't generally read a load of YA books but when the middle school librarian asked me to read and review some for her, I was more than happy to oblige so I picked out a whole stack of goodies and promptly ignored them. Now that the school year is starting to wind down, I thought I should get the book read, reviewed and returned in time for some of the kids to have a crack at them before summer comes and they have to wait for the fall for these particular books.

Narrated by 12 year old Harry after he is hit by a truck and dies, this is an interesting and ultimately upbeat book. Harry wanders around the Other Side, roaming through the adults who have died and meeting another young boy who has been dead for 150 years. The two pair up as Harry learns his way around the afterlife, even as he wonders about the Great Blue Yonder marked on the map he was given the day he arrived. Instinctively he knows that he cannot move on until he finishes his business on earth, notably forgiving his sister for her harsh words before he died and in turn forgiving hers back to him. Just before he raced off on his bike and was hit, his sister Eggy had told him she wished he would die and he said she'd be sorry when he was dead. Certainly not the last words you want to ever say to a loved one on either side. And so as he and his buddy Arthur zip around the Other Side trying to find Arthur's mother, Harry ponders how he can indeed apologize and free Eggy and himself. When Harry and Arthur go back to Earth, they look in on Harry's old school, his best friend, his enemy, and his family and Harry learns some truths about who he was in life and how his absence has affected everyone and it's not exactly as he's imagined it.

Shearer keeps the tone of the story light and Harry's active imagination, even post-death, is entertaining. Harry is very definitely a 12 year old boy with all that that entails and so middle schoolers will definitely relate to him and his anxieties. The other characters are really incidental to Harry's quest to make things right and we only ever see them through his immature eyes but his dawning understanding of life and his earthly relationships makes this dead character experience believable growth. The moral of the story is well handled and doesn't overwhelm the charming character of Harry or of his experiences after death on the Other Side and back on Earth. A quick read about an unusual situation, this will offer a pleasant variety to most middle school libraries.

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