Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My Diary from the Edge of the World

My Diary from the Edge of the World
Jodi Lynn Anderson
Simon & Shuster, 2015  416 pgs
Grades 4-8
Fantasy/Science Fiction

Come and explore alternate Earth as we read the journal of twelve-year-old Gracie. The world feels the same with the fast food restaurants and stores we are familiar with, yet is populated by mythical and dangerous creatures, such as dragons, yetis, krakens, and giants. Gracie lives in Maine with her parents and two siblings. The action begins as Gracie breaks her arm during a dragon migration and immediately the reader realizes that although the book feels like we are in the current world, something is not right. A black cloud swoops over Gracie's house indicating that someone in her family is going to die. Her brother has been sickly since birth and the family will do anything to save him. They all load into a Winnebago (with Gracie's schoolmate orphaned Oliver) and set off to the Smokey Mountains to elicit help from Gracie's estranged witch grandmother. Grandma sends them to California to try to find the "edge of the world", since the world is flat, which will lead them to the Extraordinary World, where there are no mythical creatures or black clouds (in other words: our world). The journey is dangerous since the wild is growing out and the creatures are destroying the roads and the family has many dangerous encounters along the way. At last they arrive in California, which is barely hanging onto civilization. Now they must hire an angel to protect them, as well as a ship willing to take them to the end of the world. Meanwhile, the cloud will not give up and relentlessly pursues them every step of the way. Gracie faithfully records all the adventures until their destination is reached and surprises await both the family and the reader.

This is a cool book. It falls under the category "smart kid fiction" and will be savored and devoured by said smart kids, who love books that spark their imagination. I label My Diary from the Edge of the World as both fantasy and science fiction. It is science fiction in that it is an alternate Earth and fantasy as it features mythical creatures. This book reminds me of American Gods by Neil Gaiman, a book for adults featuring creatures from folklore, although specific to our country, and an epic journey. The conception is great, the plot moves along nicely, offering surprises along the way, and the characters are realistic, developed, and likable. The big payoff comes at the end when the family and the reader finally reaches the end of the world and then encounters a further plot twist. Anderson next moves ahead six months at the very bitter end of the book, sewing everything up nicely for the reader and providing closure. I thought the bitter end portion cheapened what was a very well conceived book, but will make young readers happy. The good news is Anderson leaves nothing dangling forcing the reader to slug through two more titles. We definitely get closure. The book runs a bit long, but this will not scare the readership for this kind of story. The main character is a brave tom-boy and both male and female readers will relate to her and enjoy this story. My Diary from the Edge of the World is not for everyone, but is very original and adventurous and will appeal to kids who love to read and have big imaginations. 

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