I read a book recently so fantastic that I made my best friend use her selection for our book club to pick it, just so I would have an excuse to read it again.
It is called In Other Lands (2017, 437 pages) and it was written by Sarah Rees Brennan. It begins with a classic premise: that of a young boy plucked from a normal life and given the opportunity to relocate to a magical land, where he can learn fantastic new skills and help defend the realm.
Not every kid would agree to forever forsake video games and central heating for a war-based society seemingly stuck with medieval technology. Elliot, thirteen, chooses to leave his old life behind, not because he wants to be a hero, but because he hopes to meet mermaids.
Despite being featured on the cover of the book, the mermaids are mostly incidental. Over the next five years, Elliot’s lessons and travels introduce him to many strange new people and phenomena: elves, dwarves, trolls, harpies, peace treaties, exploding electronics and– weirdest of all– friends.
What sets this apart from other stories of its type is its tone. Elliot is anything but the typical protagonist of a young adult novel. He’s clever but incredibly irritating, and his observations are consistently fresh and funny. With compelling character development and good LGBT representation, this is a book I wish I could read every day for the rest of my life. I laughed, I cried, I want all my friends to experience the joy I have felt.