Fruits Basket Review

Summary fruits basket

Fruits Basket is a slice-of-life manga with the supernatural thrown in!

Tohru Honda is just a normal high school student.  That is until a fateful encounter with one of her classmates leads her into the mysterious world of the Sohma family…

After her mother’s death leaves her orphaned, tenth grader Tohru Honda was living in a tent in the woods and working her way through school.  When she bumps into her classmate Yuki Sohma, one of the most sought after boys in school, and he discovers her living arrangements he offers her a place to stay with him and his cousin Shigure.

Although flabbergasted at first Tohru eventually accepts their offer.  The Sohma seem like a normal family…but Tohru quickly discovers the Sohma Clan is anything but normal.

Shortly after arriving Tohru meets another member of the Sohma family, Kyo, after he crashes through a wall and challenges Yuki to a fight.  Surprised Tohru grabs on to Kyo’s back…and finds herself holding a cat.  It is then Tohru Honda becomes the first person outside of the family to learn the secret of the Sohma Clan.  The secret of the Zodiac’s curse.

Fourteen are chosen.  Twelve respected.  One outcasted.  One God.  All cursed.  The cycle has repeated for generations.  Now one ordinary girl will be lead into the Sohma family, and perhaps change things for the better.  But the question still remains, can the curse really be broken?

Thoughts on Fruits Basket

Fruits Basket has got romance, comedy, and a cursed clan based on the legend of the Zodiac.  I couldn’t put it down.  This is one of those mangas that makes you wish the next one would just hurry up and get here.

The story itself is expertly crafted.  On the one hand we’ve got a story about a young girl who has become orphaned after her mother’s tragic death, and is working as hard as she can to finish high school.  She’s got friends, exams, and homework as well as a job; and does all this with a carefree optimistic attitude masking an inner pain.

On the other hand we have the Sohma Clan.  An ancient family with problems of their own.  This family carries the curse of the Zodiac and every few generations certain people are chosen to host the spirits of those sacred animals.

They must obey the person who has been reincarnated as “God”, and must be careful of any outside contact they receive.  For if they are hugged by a member of the opposite sex outside the Zodiac they will turn into the animal they hold within them.  The regular twelve have it hard enough, but the ostracized Cat has even more problems to deal with.

When these two worlds collide we end up with a story that is both heartfelt and funny.  One of my favorite scenes throughout the entire series is in the beginning when Tohru first finds out about the Sohma’s secret.  Somehow not only does she accidentally turn Kyo into a cat, she manages to turn both Shigure and Yuki into a dog and rat, respectively.  She freaks out and then Shigure, still as a dog, must explain (yes they can talk as animals).

It’s such a comedic way to explain a rather serious issue in the Sohma, and to introduce the reader to the main plot of the series.  Even when the story becomes more serious, comedic scenes are well placed to break up the drama and ease the tension.

This type of comedy continues throughout the story as Tohru meets the other members of the Zodiac, and their leader Akito. The one with the powers of God.

Tohru is a wonderful heroine, mostly because she doesn’t know she’s the heroine and would probably try to decline the role if she knew, claiming that there must be someone better than her to play it.  Then she’d probably go and make everyone onigiri (Japanese rice balls).

Tohru has a very hard life and a lot of painful things in it, but she always manages to be optimistic.  Which is why so many of the hard-edged Sohma who carry so many scars take to her, open up, and let her in.  Tohru gives them more than just kindness, she gives them understanding.

Romance was another big thing in this manga series.  I really enjoyed all the relationships, though I must be honest it’s very unclear just who will end up with who until the end.

There’s so much back and forth and proclamations of love that might just be over dramatic friendship, but might be more.  You really need to read the entire series to find out for sure.  Very clever Natsuki Takaya.

The main relationship is kind of a love triangle between the main characters Tohru, Yuki, and Kyo.  But like all the relationships in Fruits Basket this love triangle may not be entirely what it seems.

In any case the relationship between these three, whatever it may be, carries the story through to its completion.

Yuki as the Rat, the first animal of the Zodiac, and Kyo as the outcasted Cat, the one that didn’t make it to the banquet, have been hated rivals their whole lives.  A rivalry Tohru may be able to heal.  Just as she may be able to heal everyone in the Zodiac.  Maybe even heal the curse.

Follow Tohru, Yuki, and Kyo, along with the other members of the Zodiac as they work to break the curse, find their place in the world, and maybe even fall in love.  Fruits Basket is a funny romantic ride that you’ll never forget.

Other Details

My Recommendation:  This manga series is rated T, for ages thirteen and up.  There’s not really that much violence or sexual scenes (though there are a lot of innuendos), but with all the cursing I’d say that rating is probably accurate.

Manga-ka: Natsuki Takaya

Genre(s): romance, comedy, fantasy, slice-of-life

Publisher (in US): Tokyopop

Volumes Released (in English): 23; this series is complete

First Released (in English): 2004

 

 

The Thief Lord Review

Summary the thief lord

In Cornelia Funke’s children’s novel The Thief Lord, mysteries and legends come to life. 

Venice, Italy, a place of amazing structures, fantastical legends, and secrets waiting to be unlocked.  Beneath the watery city streets are unknown canals and secret passages concealing that which does not wish to be found.  It is the perfect place to hide…

Prosper and his younger brother Bo, orphaned after their mother’s passing, escape to this mystical city after running away from their horrible aunt and uncle.

Here they are taking under the wing of a young boy called the thief lord who leads a band of other runaways that steal in order to survive.  In an old boarded up theatre with their new friends they make their home.

But just as Prosper and Bo start to feel safe their aunt and uncle arrive in Venice looking for the brothers in the hopes of taking Bo as their own and sending Prosper to an orphanage.

If that weren’t bad enough a secret that the thief lord has been keeping from everyone comes to light creating a great rift between the band just as they are hired by an old Conte for their toughest job yet.  The Conte wants them to steal a wing.  A lion’s wing.

Gaining new allies in the form of the private eye hired to find them and a local photographer, the brothers will discover an ancient secret of Venice that may aid them in escaping their aunt and uncle…or pull them apart forever.

Thoughts on The Thief Lord

This book shows just as much love for the characters as it does for the city the story takes place in.  Venice itself is a character.  Like a friend it hides the brothers and their friends while also concealing many mysteries and dangers in its watery depths.

This is the book that made me fall in love with Venice.  With the immense description of the city’s buildings, back alleys, and secret canals I felt as though I had seen Venice with my own eyes.

With all its hidden passages and legends of magic around every corner Venice is truly the best setting for a story of runaways, and Prosper and Bo are the kind of runaways you route for.

I loved them immediately.  At six Bo couldn’t be more adorable, and even at twelve Prosper seems so grown up.  My heart melt at how well he takes care of his younger brother and how close they are.

Their relationship is present at every part of the story and it really makes you hate their aunt and uncle.  They are quite vile people, which is wonderful because then they make the perfect villains.

The other members of our band of runaways include Hornet, one tough girl who refuses to tell anyone her real name, Riccio, a young boy who dreams of being as a good a thief as their leader, and Mosca, a boy with dreams of getting a boat and finding his father who disappeared years ago.

And of course there is their leader Scipio also known as the thief lord.  A very charismatic teenager who really does care about looking after his friends, even though it is his secret that nearly tears them apart.

I won’t say what that secret is (you’ll have to read the book to find out) but it was timed perfectly in the story with the theft of the wing, and it really added a lot of emotional turmoil to people’s lives that were already difficult.

For anyone who thinks children don’t feel pain as much as adults just read Riccio’s reaction to the betrayal he feels when he finds out Scipio’s secret.

The private investigator Victor hired by Prosper’s aunt and uncle to find them and the photographer Ida were excellent allies to the children.

Ida gives them help and insight about the wing they are meant to steal, and Victor ends up aiding the brothers (because he can’t stand their aunt and uncle either).

Of course everything culminates with the finding of the wing and the discovery of what it is really used for.  Something that brings Prosper and Scipio together as it could give them something they both want.  But then the question becomes for both of them is it really what they need?

This story is one of friendship and love.  How family is more than just those that are related to you, and how children oftentimes understand things better than adults.

You’ll cheer for Prosper and Bo, and grip the edge of your seat as they and their friends are taken on a magical journey in an already magical city.  And at the end of it all reunite with their friends as they all find exactly what they need: a family where they are loved.

Other Details

My Recommendation: Ok so I guess this is officially a children’s book.  I didn’t know that, not that I care.  It’s definitely suited for children, though probably at least eight or nine and up.  Again my “and up” includes all ages all the way to one hundred and beyond.  Parents read with your kids!

Author: Cornelia Funke

Genre(s): fantasy, adventure

Pages: 349

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

First Released (in English; originally written in German): 2001

 

+Anima Review

Summary +Anima

In this epic fantasy manga series you journey to the world of the +Anima, people who possess certain animal powers and abilities.  In this world regular humans and +Anima live side by side, however, not always peacefully.

Many humans shun the +Anima out of fear.  Hated by most of the population, +Anima often hide their abilities, even as they look to find those like them.

Enter Cooro, a young boy and a Crow +Anima, on a search to locate others like him.

After being captured by a traveling circus that uses +Anima in their acts, Cooro meets Husky, a Fish +Anima also forced to perform in the circus.  While at first Husky doesn’t seem inclined to be friends with Cooro, the two eventually escape the circus and set off together on an unbelievable journey.

Along the way they are joined be Senri, a Bear +Anima who is part of a tribe of people known as the Kim-un-Kur who take pride in being +Anima, and Nana, a young girl and Bat +Anima who although it saved her life would rather just be normal.

Together the band of four travel across the land getting into many adventures along the way.  From getting tricked into helping a town, to journeying across Moss Mountain with a caravan and even into the country of Sailand, where being a +Anima isn’t just looked down upon it’s illegal, the group must be careful of danger and betrayal at every turn.

And when they find out the real reason for their journey will this group that have become so close be torn apart forever?

In a world vehemently set against anything different, Cooro, Husky, Senri, and Nana will search, hope, and fight for a place to belong.

Thoughts on +Anima

I absolutely adore this manga series.  I read the first volume in one sitting, and then was very upset to realize that the second volume wasn’t even out yet!  They are all out now, so I really encourage you to get hooked!

The story is beautiful both in its writing and in its drawings.  The story itself warms your heart as you follow the +Anima on their journey for acceptance.  The truth is, it is a very serious topic but it is written in an optimistic way that gives you hope even in the darkest times.

There is always a lot of humor between the band of four as even when Husky and Nana try to be serious Cooro always has to be the goofball.  The heart-pounding adventures they get into are even laced with humor as they keep you on the edge of your seat.  You’ll always be wondering what’s going to happen next?

The story itself draws you in from the very first page with a mystery: Just who is Cooro?  That is a question that hangs over the entire story and is even asked by the other characters.

+Anima are not born as such, they become +Anima usually due to a stressful situation like having their lives put in danger.  Husky, Senri, and Nana all have experience with this.

Cooro, however, tells them he was born with his crow-like abilities.  The reader from page one sees that this is true, and this in itself is a mystery that it appears Cooro does not even know the answer to.

Another mystery emerges in the form of a man, wrapped in shadow, who is following the progress of the band of four…. and seems to know Cooro.

These mysteries were very strategically placed in the beginning of the story and then brought up again in specific spots throughout the story making you want to read more.  I just had to know these answers!  Very smart of Natsumi Mukai to place the answers at the end of the series.

The plot is wonderful, but it’s the characters you’ll fall in love with.  Husky, though a bit rough around the edges and agitated with the fact that everyone always thinks he’s a girl, steadfastly stands by his friends.

Senri may not say much but what he does say speaks volumes of his compassion.  Nana may seem like a frivolous girl at times but she knows what’s important and is there when it counts.

And Cooro brings them all together.  He may have a mysterious origin but he is the funniest of the group, and constantly blowing their cover as he spreads his wings at the drop of a hat!  As any group leader in manga he is always getting into some kind of trouble and is always eating.

Husky, Nana, and Senri always find themselves in situations where they are pulled into danger by Cooro’s actions, yet they continue to follow him.  Because also as any leader in manga, Cooro has the kindest heart of anyone and can’t stop himself from helping someone in need.

That attitude may be just what is needed to help +Anima be better understood and accepted.  That was a big reason I enjoyed this manga.  It deals with issues that occur in our world today.

It takes a look at world where those who are different are hated and feared before they even say or do anything.  How human nature is flawed.  It is a very relatable theme.

As you follow the story of Cooro, Husky, Senri, and Nana, you’ll laugh, be on the edge of your seat, and cheer as they go on an adventure with a curious end and just maybe find where they’ve always belonged.

Other Details

My Recommendation: This manga series is rated T for teen meaning 13 and up.  I would say that’s probably accurate (manga ratings usually are).  Younger children may not fully understand the underlying themes, but use your own discretion.  A mature 11 or 12 year old could handle it, but I really wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under 10.

Manga-ka: Natsumi Mukai

Genre(s): fantasy

Publisher (English): Tokyopop

Volumes Released (in English): 10; this series is complete

First Released (in English): 2006

 

The Betrayal Knows My Name Review

Quick info about this type of book review before I get started.  This book is a manga, and as anyone who reads manga knows the title is for the entire series not just one book.  As such for this and any other manga I look at it, the review will be of the series as a whole (whether finished or ongoing).

Summary the betrayal knows my name

The Betrayal Knows My Name starts with a boy named Yuki Sakurai.  He has been raised in an orphanage since he was a baby.  He has a kind heart and helpful nature, but has always felt somehow alone and constantly fearing that people will find out about his strange ability to see people’s deepest secrets and cruelest emotions.  The darkest parts of their hearts are open to Yuki through one simple touch.

Left in the bushes in front of the orphanage, no one ever saw or knew who his parents were or where he came from.  Yuki wants more than anything to be needed, and wishes to know what his purpose is.  Why was he born?  Just as Yuki turns fifteen and starts high school his questions will be answered in the strangest way.

Trying to aid a friend Yuki is nearly run down by a car, and saved at the last moment by a strikingly beautiful man with silver eyes.  Eyes that seem to tug at something deep in Yuki’s soul.

Before Yuki can even understand his sudden feeling of connection to a man he’s only just met, he is attacked by monster-like creatures.  He is saved by the silvered-eye man again as well as two high school students.

Then Yuki learns of the battle between the Giou Clan, a clan whose members have supernatural abilities like his own, and the Duras, or demons.  This battle has been raging for over a thousand years, with the same warriors of the Giou being reborn again and again until it is done.  It is a battle that Yuki has a large role in.  A role he has played many times before.

Moving to Tokyo to take his place among the Giou, Yuki must learn to control his powers if he is to help his new found family.  But far greater challenges than Yuki knows await him.  Will he be able to figure out why he feels such a strong connection to the silver-eyed Duras, Luka who seems to have joined the Giou solely to protect Yuki?  And when the true reason for this war comes to light will Yuki be able to handle a betrayal he never saw coming?

Thoughts on The Betrayal Knows My Name

I have read many a manga in my time.  So many in fact that at one point I found that I couldn’t get into them like I used to.  The Betrayal Knows My Name changed all that.  I could not put it down.  I read the first volume, and had to get the rest as soon as possible.

I’ve often said that the best characters in manga have tragic back stories.  It’s a sad fact, but if a character does not have a tragic back story (or no back story at all) they are not that great of a character in manga.

In this manga all the characters blew me away.  They all have perfect tragic back stories (with a bunch of past lives behind them of course they would).  This makes excellent fodder for the emotional depth of the plot as the characters must work out many hard things while already in the very hard situation of war.

I love them all really, but if I told you about all the characters we’d be here all day.  The main focus of this manga is the character Yuki and his relationship with everyone, especially Luka.

Those two have a very important relationship linking back to Yuki’s past life.  I won’t go into full details here because I want you to read it for yourselves, but their relationship is the one I really love the most.

Luka really is the perfect guy and Yuki you really just want to hug.  He’s always trying to solve everyone else’s problems no matter how much pain it causes him and never worrying about himself.  But never fear that’s what Luka is there for.

I really love both of these characters, and have reread their numerous scenes together just because I can’t get enough.  I really want them to be happy.  I really want all the characters to end up happy.

That’s the way this manga makes you feel.  Like you know them all and want them to be happy in the end because after a thousand years of war they deserve it.

The title was what drew me to this manga in the first place.  Even though I have read all the ones that are currently out (in English) I still haven’t quite worked out what it means.

The thousand year war was started by a member of the Giou Clan (not saying who) who betrayed them to the Duras.  So I guess that’s the big betrayal, but within the story there are many other betrayals that are going on.

The Giou lie to each other, withhold information, and everyone seems to have a secret agenda.  It certainly makes a great story that keeps you guessing (despite the confusing title).

The element of the supernatural and a war between humans and demons going on in secret alongside modern day Tokyo makes for a great story in its own right, and the characters and their complex relationships carry it through.

The artwork in this manga is honestly some of the best I’ve ever seen.  It’s so beautiful and somewhat sad.  It’s like Hotaru Odagiri has taken the essence of the story and given it physical form in her drawings.  Just beautiful.  An overall superb manga in every possible way.

Other Details

My Recommendation: The official ranking on this is Older Teen.  Stick to that.  It’s not quite in the levels of the M rating (eighteen and up) but this series is definitely in the range of sixteen and up.  This manga is NOT for children.

Manga-ka (author): Hotaru Odagiri

Genre(s): fantasy, romance, shounen ai (this is a manga genre that features boys being intimate with each other in between friends and lovers) leading towards yaoi (this is the genre of boy love; I think and hope its heading this way anyway!)

Publisher (English): Yen Press

Volumes Released (in English): 6 (first five hold two volumes in one); this series is still ongoing

First Released (in English): 2011

 

 

Snow-Walker Review

Summary snow-walker

In the land of the Jarlshold things were often cold, but ever since Gudrun, the Snow-walker, arrived from the edge of the world things have become freezing.

A soldier of Jarlshold married her after she bewitched him with her beauty, but it is her sorcery that she uses to control the people of the Jarlshold.  Before long Gudrun has convinced her new husband to steal the throne away from the rightful ruler and become the Jarl himself.  But it is Gudrun who has power here. The people of the Jarlshold live in fear.  Gudrun seems to have no weaknesses…or does she?

A young girl named Jessa and her cousin Thorkil are banished by Gudrun after their fathers are killed in an attempt to put the rightful ruler back on the throne. They are sent to Thrasirhall a ruin in the very far north where it is said another was banished years ago.  Gudrun’s son Kari.  Not much is known about Gudrun’s son, but many speak of him in whispers.  Is he like his mother?  Is he truly a monster?

Jessa and Thorkil had no choice but to find out, but when they arrive at Thrasirhall a surprise awaits them.  Kari turns out to be different than anyone thought.  With time running out for the Jarlshold and Gudrun closing in Jessa must rely on someone she never imagined to help save her home.  Kari is far more important than anyone thought he was.  In fact he may be the key to saving the Jarlshold from the Snow-walker.

Thoughts on Snow-Walker

So here’s the thing when I first got this book I didn’t realize that it was actually an omnibus version of a three book series.  I still didn’t realize that the list on the contents page, The Snow-walker’s Son, The Empty Hand, and The Soul Thieves, were not just the parts of the book until I started reading.

You can purchase all three books of the Snow-walker series separately, but I did not.  Since I read them together I am going to review them together.

I loved this book.  I just had to start there.  It drew me in from the very beginning, and I just had to keep reading.  I finished reading The Snow-walker’s Son in one sitting and then started right in on the next one.

Personally I was glad I had the entire series in one book.  Sometimes omnibus editions don’t work out, but this story slipped seamlessly from one book to the next.

Even though the book jacket’s summary only pertains in specifics to the first book, the overall theme of our heroes fighting Gudrun continues throughout the entire three volume set.  As you’ll see, even though they get her out of the Jarlshold Gudrun is not one to disappear quietly into the night.

It’s a fantasy story of a grand adventure across a frozen land, spanning several years over the entire volume.  The fantasy elements are used well and actually make sense.

A land full of snow white people with incredible powers who live in a land so far north that people in the Jarlshold believe it to be the edge of the world is the main source of magic in the story as it is Gudrun’s birthplace.

The overall setting of the Jarlshold struck me as a Viking empire (which is awesome!) in a time when Vikings would have been in control of the world (their world anyway).  Basically for this story think Vikings in an alternate reality where magic and all their supernatural beliefs are real.

I must say though I did love the many unique (sometimes quirky) characters, Thorkil and I never really hit it off.  Which turned out to be a good thing as even though he plays a slightly big part in the first book, he is literally never seen again (except very briefly in a dream).

The other merry band of rebels supporting the rightful Jarl continue to go on adventures to save the Jarlshold from Gudrun as getting her out of the seat of power was only the beginning.

I love Kari!  Really I cannot say that enough.  Watching him grow and get out of Thrasirhall is amazing.  When he’s learning to control his powers and then gets scared that he is actually just like his mother I just wanted to hug him.

His relationship with Brochael is so sweet and protective.  You can tell a strong father-son like bond exists between the two.

Jessa was a fierce heroine, and certainly not the type of girl to sit at home.  She was the first person (besides Brochael) to accept Kari and help him (for which I love her).

It is a good thing Jessa is  such a brave and loyal friend because Kari needed as many of those as he could get.  When your mother is basically the embodiment of all evil and you are the only one who can stop her, help from friends is very welcome.

From getting Gudrun unseated from power at the Jarlshold, fighting off a monster made of her magic, and finally traveling to the land of Gudrun’s birth for a final confrontation Snow-walker is an adventure you will feel a part of and never want to end.

Other Details

My Recommendation: This book can be found in the young adult section and while I do feel parts of it might be too scary for young children, by middle school age it should be fine.  And of course it’s a great read even for people slightly older than middle school age.  You know like ages twelve to one hundred.

Author: Catherine Fisher

Genre(s): fantasy, adventure

Pages: 507 (in omnibus edition)

Publisher: Greenwillow Books (in US)

First Released: 2004 (in US)

 

Iceland Review

Summary iceland

In Betsy Tobin’s sweeping saga the ancient world of Iceland comes to life as myth meets reality, the bonds of family are tested by forbidden love, and gods come to earth as Iceland’s legendary volcano is about to blow.

The year is 1000 A.D. and Iceland is still a land with ancient traditions dating to the Vikings with rituals and beliefs that clash with those of the encroaching missionaries of Christianity.

Freya, a goddess of Asgard, has come to Earth in search of a necklace that may aid her in altering the course of history from the disaster she has heard prophesied.  She finds it in the land of the underground world of dwarfs where to obtain it she will have to make a deal with the four brothers who crafted it.

Meanwhile a young girl named Fulla is promised to man she hardly knows only to realize she is in love with a young man from a farm that neighbors her family’s.  A family that has been in a feud with her family for generations.

The bonds of love and faith are tested as the magic of the gods runs throughout Iceland as a clash between the ancient beliefs and Christianity grows closer.  A clash that could uproot all the ways of the Icelandic people, that is if the ever looming danger of the volcano does not uproot it first.

Thoughts on Iceland

When I first picked up this book I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  I just knew that I had a fascination with Iceland and a story that takes place back in the year 1000 always sounds good.  I am so glad that I found this book.  From its majestic view of Iceland to its look at the people of this land on the midst of a religious revolution with a little godly influence thrown in this book is one wild ride.

The overall story of Freya is actually based on a real myth from Iceland about how the goddess Freya met up with four dwarf brothers to broker a deal for their golden necklace.   Betsy Tobin’s tale adds more danger and magic to this myth which made for an exciting and crazy adventure for all the characters.  As whenever gods get involved in human affairs things are sure to get turned upside down.

Romance also is a big factor in this novel.  Fulla and Vili are basically the Icelandic Romeo and Juliet as they fight to be together despite their families’ feuding history.  The other great romance in this novel is that between Freya and Dvalin, one of the dwarf brothers who crafted the necklace. Honestly I enjoyed their relationship more than Fulla and Vili’s.  Neither one of them could stand the other at first and yet they couldn’t stop talking to each other.  It was funny and sweet seeing them play hard ball with each other but with an underlying tenderness.

The stories of Freya, Dvalin, Fulla, and Vili all intertwine throughout the novel. All come to a head when the final push for Christianity to take over Iceland is made and the disaster Freya was warned of sweeps across the land as the sleeping volcano awakes.

Other Details

My Recommendation: I would say this book is definitely for teens and up.  Personally I read it in college and was enthralled, so even if you’re past the teenage years this is still a book that would be well enjoyed.  I would say this is probably not a book for young children though.  Wait until they’re a little older before showing them this.

Author: Betsy Tobin

Genre(s): Fantasy, romance

Pages: 354

Publisher: Plume, The Penguin Group

First Released: September, 2009 (in US)

Why Science-Fiction and Fantasy are Not the Same Genre

Defining Science-Fiction and Fantasy scifi-fantasy

Science-Fiction and Fantasy are both two great genres.  However, they are not the exact same genre as many book listings would have you believe.

Often in bookstores you will find a science-fiction/fantasy section which holds books that fall under both of these categories.  There are also bookstores that simply mark a science-fiction section and then proceed to dump both science-fiction and fantasy under it confusing the issue more.

Now don’t get me wrong there can be quite a bit of overlap between the two genres, and there are parts of them that are similar.  For instance the fact that they both are fictional and thus are stories about things that have not occurred.  Despite certain similarities, though, science-fiction and fantasy have certain key differences.

There are many different ways of defining these two genres, and debates have been raging about what makes a book science-fiction or fantasy for a long time.  Here is a basic definition of each genre:

  • Science-Fiction: a story that, although has not happened, has a possibility of happening based on current real scientific facts.  These stories often take place in the future and/or show a certain phenomenon that is now possible such as time travel.
  • Fantasy: a story that is completely invented and could not (most likely) ever actually occur.  These stories usually have some element of magic to them such as supernatural creatures, people with some kind of supernatural ability, and/or take place in a completely made up world.

Separating the Two

Fantasy books are places where fantastical creatures are real, and people find out they have great supernatural powers and have to save the world.  It’s the land where the totally impossible is possible. Think things like Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Science-fiction on the other hand, and I cannot stress this enough, is a story about something that could actually happen.  Sure you hear “time travel” in a book’s summary and you automatically think, “that could never happen.”  The truth is it could, just not with what we currently have at our disposal.

The possibility is there.  That’s where science-fiction comes in.  As Ray Bradbury, who has written some awesome science-fiction such as Fahrenheit 451, stated “science-fiction is a sociological look at the future.”

Some parts of science-fiction that were written previously are actually starting to show up in current science.  It is currently possible to genetically modify a body before it’s born.  Most of this research is to help prevent birth defects and diseases, but the possibility now exists to choose genes for things like personality and physical appearance.

This eerily mirrors a character in Orson Scott Card’s book Ender’s Shadow who was part of an experiment which genetically modified babies in the womb giving them super intelligence.   This may be only one part of the story, but it does show how science-fiction stories, while not real, have the possibility of at least somewhat becoming a reality where as fantasy stories do not.

Science Fantasy?

There are some stories where the realms of science-fiction and fantasy overlap so much it’s hard to tell which genre the story belongs in.  One of the biggest examples of this is Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels.

Although they have dragons, leading many to think of them as fantasy, they are based on and use a lot of science within them.  Anne McCaffrey herself saw them more as science-fiction as she always took great care to craft the science into her dragons.

There are those who put books like this into the newer genre of science fantasy, but explaining that would take a whole other post!  So for now just know that while it is possible for science-fiction and fantasy to overlap on occasion there are still certain key things about each genre which separate it from the other.

Why I feel I need to Tell You This

The other day I saw Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief labeled as science-fiction.  Granted this was the movie not the book, but seriously?  In what world is Percy Jackson science-fiction?  How is a story about demigods, and Greek gods, and magical this, and supernatural that anything other than fantasy?  When I saw that my pet peeve about science-fiction and fantasy always getting mixed up rose to the surface, and I just had to help spread the word.

The Mostly True Story of Jack Review

Summary mostly true story of jack

It’s fantasy meets real life in Kelly Barnhill’s debut children’s novel The Mostly True Story of Jack.  When Jack’s parents get divorced and send him to spend the summer with an aunt and uncle he’s never heard of in the town of Hazelwood, Iowa, Jack figures it’ll be boring and the same as everywhere else where no one pays any notice to him.  No one ever has before; his own parents didn’t even pay him much attention not even having any pictures of him in the house.  But in Hazelwood that is all about to change.

Jack is astonished to realize people actually do notice him here.  His mysterious aunt and uncle have pictures of him all over their house and Jack makes friends for the first time in his life.  But not all is as it seems in Hazelwood, and Jack realizes that being noticed can be dangerous.  Especially when you are noticed by the mayor of the town and he is planning your immediate demise.

Jack soon discovers that Hazelwood is hiding a dark secret.  A secret it seems that Jack may be the key to unlocking.  Jack has no idea how he could possibly be related to anything going on in Hazelwood, or why all of a sudden everyone seems to notice him.  But Jack soon realizes he’ll have to figure out those answers if he wants to survive.

Jack and his new friends delve into the mysterious past of Hazelwood to discover exactly what it hides, and why Jack is so important to this town.  Through all the mystery and magic surrounding the town one thing is very clear, someone or something in Hazelwood has been waiting for Jack for a long time…

Thoughts on The Mostly True Story of Jack

When I first saw this book I thought the title was intriguing.  What did the author mean by mostly true?  After I started reading it I couldn’t put it down.  This is one of those books that you are constantly searching for but never find until you’re not looking.  A book you find at random when you are just browsing through the shelves of a bookstore not looking for anything in particular until it jumps out at you.  This book draws you in from the first page and actually makes you salivate for more.

From the very beginning I had to know who Jack was.  Why was his story mostly true?  Then I absolutely had to find out what was going on in Hazelwood, and how Jack who had felt he was invisible (and maybe was) fit into all this.

Jack I felt was a very solid main character.  He’s the kind of kid who is unobtrusive and feels lonely and neglected so you instantly feel emotionally attached him, but you can also tell that there is something about him resting just below the surface that could make him a hero even if he doesn’t want to be.  In many ways this is a coming of age story with some magic thrown in.  Jack who had always felt invisible is now noticed by everyone, and must make decisions that would be hard for an adult let alone a child.

The story had a fairy tale quality to it that I thoroughly enjoyed.  It was truer to the original form of fairy tales with its darker undertones and magic affecting the lives of people not always for the better.  This tied in with the element of Green Man mythology made Hazelwood the perfect setting for a fairy tale adventure.

A whole new take was given to the Green Man figure which I thought was excellently done.  Adding that piece of magic to the secrets of Hazelwood really brought the story together, especially with Jack’s final showdown.  I won’t give too much away about that here though.  I’d hate to spoil the surprise!

This book was a whirlwind of fantasy, fairy tale, mystery, and reality all thrown together to create a story that you’ll want to read again and again.  Through it all Jack is the guiding light you follow.  From his days of feeling lonely and invisible, to making friends and getting maybe a little too noticed.  You follow him through the maze of Hazelwood as he discovers just who he is, figures out the secret of Hazelwood, and what he’ll have to sacrifice in order to save the people he cares for and ultimately find what he’s always been looking for: a place where he belongs.

Other Details

My Recommendation: I know that this book is listed for ages 8-12, but I personally think it’s more for the older range of that.  Younger children might not grasp certain parts of it, and there are parts that I can see might be too scary or upsetting for a young child.  This book is good for children around eleven and up as well as adults who feel a need for a little magic and adventure in their lives.  It is especially good for children and adults to read together.

Author: Kelly Barnhill

Genre(s):  Fantasy, mystery, adventure

Pages: 323

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company a division of Hachette Book Group Inc.

First Released: August 2011