Book Review: Between Two Ends by David Ward

14 Apr

ImageYeats was warned that his grandmother’s house held many secrets, but he didn’t see this coming. Stumbling upon two talking bookends in the library, Yeats is granted a wish to go into any book he wants. He chooses Arabian Nights, a book linked to his father’s depression. He discovers Shaharazad is actually Shari, a girl his father was friends with before she disappeared into the book when they were young. It’s Yeats’ duty to bring her back… but convincing her she is anything but royalty will be quite the task! Yeats battles a giant cat, prison guards, and a cook to get to Shari. But to bring her home, she must undo her own wish to be part of the story and want to return with him. Which will she choose?

Okay. This is one of those books that’s better in theory than practice. The gist of the plot reminded me of Inkheart, and it’s likely that I got my hopes up a bit too much. The idea of talking bookends that can take you into any story you wish is great. A character from “our” world jumping into a well-known book is also fun. I mean, I’d love the ability to experience Harry Potter or His Dark Materials first hand, wouldn’t you?

However, as far as the plot went, I got a bit frustrated. The inclusion of the adults in Yeats’ life irritated me. Was this a story about Yeats, or a story about his parents? It switched POVs multiple times throughout–unnecessarily in my opinion–panning back to his father, who’s all “woe is me” and his mother who’s too dim to understand what’s going on and his grandmother who seems to know a little too much for a lady who never went into the book to retrieve Shari in the first place.

You see, it all starts with his parents taking him to his grandmother’s for the first time. His father and Shari were friends there once and got into a bit of trouble with these bookends. Shari was in a bad place at the time and wished that she was Shaharazad. William (Yeats’ father) gets caught by some guards and is beheaded, so he wants with all his heart to be back in real life–which breaks the spell and sends you back. Only, Shari wasn’t with him. So William gets all messed up and twenty years on, he gets these bouts of depression that are affecting his relationship with his wife and son.

So the logical way to think about this is that, while the riveting adventures through literature are part of the main plot, the underlying plot is “Saving Shari to cure William’s dad and save the family.” At least, that’s what we’re reminded of dozens of times throughout the book, and yet at the end there is barely any mention of his dad being cured and happier and what have you–it just kind of abruptly ends and focuses once again on Yeats and Shari.

The thing is, the ONLY things we really know about Yeats throughout the entire book is that a) he had no idea about any of the reasons his dad was depressed all the time, but he waltzes in and sort of accepts these talking pirates, after spending the first fifty pages saying “I wish I knew what was going on” (to which I was replying me, too, bro–me too). b) His sole drive in life is to cure his dad. He has no other personality traits. This bothers me a lot because in YA fiction I just feel like there has to be a break from parents to be successful. Harry’s parents die, Lyra’s parents are failures, Meggie’s separated from Mo, Alanna’s sent away, Meliara’s parents die, Sophie’s parents die, Soraya’s parents die, you get me? Okay, maybe you want to break the mold–but I don’t read the books for the parents! In this case, for all like three hours Yeats is actually in the book, it’s “dad this” and dad that” and “I wish I was home.” Dude, you’re in a book, savor it for a minute!

What I found while reading this is that the only character I actually liked was Shari and I wish this had been her story. I wish that the book had started with her and William as kids, and told how they found out about the pirates and why Shari chose to go into the book. Yes, if this book had been this book’s prequel, I would have liked it better. Instead, we’re given bits and pieces of prequel and not enough of the actual story line, which went too fast to be believable, and suddenly, boom, they think it’s a good idea to go into Treasure Island.

Wait, what?

You see, there was a character in the book who seemed to me to exist for the sole purpose of there being a sequel. His name is Roland. He’s from France. He found a book end named Khan and got arrested in Arabian Nights for stealing, at which point Khan lost him and couldn’t find him again despite him wishing he was back home (which honestly seemed like a plot device and not at all related to the magic as it had been explained previously). So, Yeats meets him in prison. They talk for about a page and decide they are best friends. Yeats is rescued but can’t rescue Roland. He tells him if he gets out to find his grandmother’s house in Maine (some friend, huh?). Then Yeats tells Khan where Roland is. When they return, he gets a letter “which Shari’s grandfather told her to give him” quite conveniently after he mentions, “I forgot about Roland!” and lo and behold, it’s from Roland who is basically like, “I can’t meet you because how could we explain how we know each other but hey! I have a wish, so we could meet up in a book…”

Hadn’t they learned a lesson? What exactly was the conclusion of this book? “Oh, it’s dangerous to go into books, and I don’t think I really enjoyed my time in one anyway except I met this cool kid called Roland who had nothing to do with the plot whatsoever, and now I want to see him again so I think I’ll go into another book, despite wanting to cure my dad who waited for Shari for twenty years after losing her, never mind if we BOTH don’t come back from our next adventure…”

Ummm…??

Basically. This book irritated me because it could have been much better than it was, there was no character development, and there were useless characters who didn’t need to be there (Roland. Yeats’ mother. Etc.). The plot wasn’t incredibly well constructed, either.

I hate being so rough on a book. I’m most frustrated with those that had so much potential but didn’t live up to expectations. So, while I wouldn’t recommend this one, maybe you can find something in it that I didn’t.

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One Response to “Book Review: Between Two Ends by David Ward”

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  1. 2013: A Year of Reading in Review | More Than One Page - December 26, 2013

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