Melanie Tamaki is an outsider. The only child of a loving but neglectful mother is just barely coping with school and with life. But everything changes on the day she returns home to find her mother is missing, lured back to Half World by the vindictive Mr. Glueskin. Soon Melanie begins an epic and darkly fantastical journey to save her parents. What she does not yet realize is that the future of the universe depends upon her success.
Raised in impoverished circumstances by her single mother, overweight 14-year-old Melanie is the target of ridicule at school and leads a lonely, introverted life. Then an evil being named Mr. Glueskin kidnaps her mother, forcing Melanie to travel to Half World, a colorless land that has been sundered from the realms of flesh and spirit, its deceased inhabitants cursed to relive the most traumatic moments of their lives. In her attempts to save her mother, Melanie learns she is destined to reunite the realms. Goto writes the hellish Half World as miserably surreal yet horrifyingly believable. A woman jumps off a bridge only to reappear again and again, and there are numerous human/animal hybrids, several of whom suffer gruesome (if temporary) deaths at the hands of the grotesque and psychotic Mr. Glueskin. Even after learning the strength of her character (and the truth about her parents), Melanie has believable relapses, but never stops fighting. It's a fast-moving and provocative journey with cosmically high stakes, and one that should readily appeal to fans of dark, nightmarish fantasy. Ages 12 up.