This is one of the easiest ratings I’ve ever given. I wasn’t even halfway through the book when I knew that I was giving this book a 5-star rating.
“What’s your name?”
“Serena?” Elliot asked.
“Serene,” said Serene. “My full name is Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle.”
Elliot’s mouth fell open. “That is badass.”
The Borderlands aren’t like anywhere else. Don’t try to smuggle a phone or any other piece of technology over the wall that marks the Border—unless you enjoy a fireworks display in your backpack. (Ballpoint pens are okay.) There are elves, harpies, and—best of all as far as Elliot is concerned—mermaids.
Elliot? Who’s Elliot? Elliot is thirteen years old. He’s smart and just a tiny bit obnoxious. Sometimes more than a tiny bit. When his class goes on a field trip and he can see a wall that no one else can see, he is given the chance to go to school in the Borderlands.
It turns out that on the other side of the wall, classes involve a lot more weaponry and fitness training and fewer mermaids than he expected. On the other hand, there’s Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle, an elven warrior who is more beautiful than anyone Elliot has ever seen, and then there’s her human friend Luke: sunny, blond, and annoyingly likeable. There are lots of interesting books. There’s even the chance Elliot might be able to change the world.
Our main character, Elliott, is annoying. Seriously annoying. He embraces his annoyingness and uses it to whatever advantage he can. Exactly like every thirteen-year-old boy I’ve ever met. He’s whiny, obnoxious, kind of a jerk, terrible to his friends, and yet really accepting of people as they are. In Other Lands follows Elliott through four formative years – the most crucial years of his life to date. Elliott has a lot of growing up and self-discovery ahead of him, and that journey is one of the many things that makes this book special. Elliott is surprisingly oblivious to things that are obvious to the reader, despite being pretty introspective.
He goes over the wall into the Borderlands and chooses to stay. His portal opens and he runs right in and makes it his home. He has to navigate cultural differences, teenage emotions, relationships, friendships, classes and his own personal desires.
I don’t want to spoil the magic of discovery for other readers, but In Other Lands is inclusive, witty, and touching. I laughed out loud and leaked tears on and off throughout my read. I didn’t want to put it down, and when I had to, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
In Other Lands is what you’d get if Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway had a baby with Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. The tone is light, but the subject matter is meaty and full of pointed and poignant observations about our own culture.
My one and only complaint about In Other Lands is the cover. It’s a beautiful cover, but a misleading one. Let’s be honest here: people judge books by their covers. It’s an unfortunate fact of life. Another unfortunate fact is that many boys won’t pick up books that they think are for girls. (Girls generally pick up more “boy” books than vice versa) This cover feels feminine, and I fear has turned boys off from picking this book up. If I were to re-cover In Other Lands I’d give it a gorgeous, adventure-y cover reminiscent of the Percy Jackson books. (Or we could have both covers and the world would rejoice.) I want this book to be in as many hands as possible, and it makes me sad thinking that anyone might pass on this book because of the cover/content mismatch. Everyone with even a passing interest in YA, Fantasy or a combination of the two should read this book.
In Other Lands is on shelves now and everyone should be tripping over themselves to go out and get a copy RIGHT NOW!