Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker (The Up-and-Under, #1)
Writing as A. Deborah Baker, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Seanan McGuire introduces readers to a world of talking trees and sarcastic owls, of dangerous mermaids and captivating queens in Over the Woodward Wall, an exceptional tale for readers who are young at heart.
If you trust her you'll never make it home...
Avery is an exceptional child. Everything he does is precise, from the way he washes his face in the morning, to the way he completes his homework - without complaint, without fuss, without prompt.
Zib is also an exceptional child, because all children are, in their own way. But where everything Avery does and is can be measured, nothing Zib does can possibly be predicted, except for the fact that she can always be relied upon to be unpredictable.
They live on the same street.
They live in different worlds.
On an unplanned detour from home to school one morning, Avery and Zib find themselves climbing over a stone wall into the Up and Under - an impossible land filled with mystery, adventure and the strangest creatures.
And they must find themselves and each other if they are to also find their way out and back to their own lives.
TITLE: Over the Woodward Wall
AUTHOR: A. Deborah Baker, aka Seanan McGuire
LENGTH: 208 pages
AGE: Young Adult, Middle Grade
Queer Rep Summary: No canon* queer rep.
*Strong genderqueer vibes from a literally transhuman secondary character, this is a book that feels queer even if no characters are canonically queer.
Over the Woodward Wall is a fairy tale with stranger hunger and feathers under its skin, unfolding a winding world in the overlap between strange and familiar.
The MC's are fantastic together and separately, they're explicitly very different people in a way that suits the narrative without feeling like they're caricatures of children. The way their relationship builds and is complicated felt natural and really, really good. They had an amount of emotional progression that fits the size of the story: enough to make this slice of their adventure help the grow as people, but not so much as to break narrative immersion. The secondary characters have ways of looking at the world which feel aching and sharp, for they are of the Up-and-Under which has its own rules to flaunt, follow, or break.
I love the narrative style, the narration speaks about the MCs in a ways that is explanatory without ever dismissing their sense of their own agency, even (or perhaps especially) when their sense is that they've lost their agency in some fundamental way. The cast of characters is surprisingly large for such a small book, but they're linked thematically in ways that make it easy to keep track of everyone and their role in the story. That archetypal repetition supports the style of this story as a kind of fairy tale. Not that it has fairies exactly, but that young protagonists go to some strange place and meet a variety of anthropomorphic creatures and a smattering of implicitly human but still rather strange characters. For established readers of this author, you'll love this whether you come to this book having read Middlegame and needing to delve into this companion novel, or you love the Wayward Children series and are ready for something with similar bones but a very different look. This book is a companion of sorts to Middlegame, but it can be read and enjoyed completely separately from it.
Overall I love this and I'm very excited for its eventual sequel.
CW for imprisonment, memory loss.
Clear Your Shit Readathon 2020 prompt: Pre-order