Over the Woodward Wall

Over the Woodward Wall
A. Deborah Baker (Seanan McGuire), 2020

Premise: Kids Zib and Avery live on the same street but lead very different lives, until one day they climb a wall that shouldn't be there and end up in a very different world. 

I have mixed feelings about reviewing this book because I went into it with completely the wrong idea. I heard a few people singing its praises and placed a hold at the library without thinking much about it. But this is a new pen name for McGuire, and that's because it's pretty different than her other work. But maybe not quite different enough for me to realize it from the start? In either case, I spent the whole first section confused because I kept waiting for something in the tone or plot to change that wasn't going to change.  

I've read this author's urban fantasy, and her meta-fairytale work, and her horror, but I would call this book... somewhat eerie middle-grade fantasy? It's kind of like if Stephen King with all his meta-narration-style tried to write a modern fairy tale that's actually appropriate for kids. And that was honestly not what I was ready for. 

Also, this is apparently a book that exists inside the world of another of her recent books that I haven't read yet, so maybe the whole thing makes more sense in that context? 

The fantasy world is interesting, but the writing has a blend of Oz-like dream logic and modern direct address to the reader implying an awareness of storytelling/fairytale structure. That combination clashed more than it clicked for me, and the style wasn't pretty enough to make up for a meandering plot. 

It was interesting (and short) enough that I read the whole thing, but the ending isn't an ending. In my opinion, this type of multi-book arc is all wrong for the type of classic-style children's book it purports to be, again bringing into awkward tension whether it's an adult fantasy with kid protagonists or a kid fantasy with too much description. 

I can't mark it down too far because individual scenes were striking or moving, and individual ideas were really neat, but it didn't gel as a whole.

3 Stars - A Good Book


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