Among Others by Jo Walton

8706185It doesn’t matter. I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books.

What it’s about: Among Others just won the Nebula for Best Novel. It is the story of a teenage girl growing up in the late ’70s. Mor’s twin sister had died the year before in a tragic accident. She then ran away from home and, as a result, was sent to live with her absentee father, who in turn sent her to boarding school. Mor, handicapped by the same accident, is a geek and an outsider who spends most of her time reading. Also, she can see magical beings she calls “fairies,” and she can do magic.

Why I liked it: This is a lovely coming-of-age novel that I think will resonate with any reader, especially those of us who felt on the outside growing up. Interestingly, the most important event in the story happens before the novel even opens. This event — a showdown between twin sisters and their witch mother over some dark plot, resulting in the tragedy — could serve as the climax for any fantasy novel. That this part of the story was deliberately left untold, and that a good deal of the story is about the protagonist’s love for reading sci -fi/fantasy books, highlights an interesting choice by the author. She chooses to tell the story of what happens after the big climax, after evil has been defeated and good has won. What are the consequences? How do the survivors live with them? How do they get on with their lives afterward? I don’t think I’ve seen that particular story done before, at least not often.

I enjoyed many of the references to reading and books, although to be honest, reading does not make for an exciting plot. Mor at fifteen is more well-read than I am, at least when it comes to science fiction. However, if you are unfamiliar with the books she references — and some of them were unknown to me — the references can go right over your head, and leave you feeling a little disconnected from the story.

As for the fairies and the magic, it was unclear whether they were actually real, or whether Mor had fantasized them. There are no indications in the book that they are anything but real, so I assume that we readers are supposed to accept them at face value. Mor does explain how magic works in a way that it can be dismissed as coincidence or something that would happen anyway, making it difficult to pin down when it is actually working, and that rang true to me. .

All in all, I enjoyed this book very much. The few flaws are easily overlooked.

Who would like this: I would recommend this book to teen readers and anyone who loves genre fiction.


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