The World Above

[openbook booknumber=”9781442403376″][rating:2/5]

Gen and her twin brother, Jack, were raised with their mother’s tales of life in the World Above. Gen is skeptical, but adventurous Jack believes the stories – and trades the family cow for magical beans. Their mother rejoices, knowing they can finally return to their royal home.

When Jack plants the beans and climbs the enchanted stalk, he is captured by the tyrant who now rules the land. Gen sets off to rescue her brother, but danger awaits her in the World Above. For finding Jack may mean losing her heart…

I realized going into this that The World Above is intended to be a light, fluffy read for young teens. The entire Once Upon A Time series is all made up of fairy tale books retold in a literary manner within a relatively sanitary and safe fairy tale world. Even knowing all this I still took issue with the book because, well, it’s boring.

In The World Above Jack has a twin sister who is the main character of the book. All of the Once Upon A Time books have a female protagonist. Following things from her point of view proves… dull. Jack leaves on the adventure while Gen, the sensible one, stays at home. Weeks pass where Jack climbs a beanstalk, meets a giant and his beautiful normal sized sister, discovers the charged political environment of a different magical world, and brings back a magical goose and sack. But we are not following Jack, we are following Gen. So while all of that is going on “off camera” we are told in great detail about Gen’s adventures cooking, cleaning, sewing, gardening, and making lists for next years harvest. This proves to contain all of the adventure and excitement one expects from watching paint dry.

I’m sorry I never really believed,” I said. “Not the way Jack did.”
       “It doesn’t make any difference,” my mother replied. Her eyes focused on the beanstalk for a moment, then returned to mine. “You believe now. Be safe and smart up there, my Gen. Be yourself.”
       Before I could answer, my mother turned away and walked quickly toward the house. I turned to face the beanstalk.
       There is no going back now, I thought.
       For better or worse, there was only going forward. There was only going up. Seizing the trunk of the beanstalk with both hands, I pushed off from the World Below and began to climb.

But wait, it gets worse. When Jack leaves a second time to attempt to gain the harp from the evil king who killed Jack and Gen’s father he doesn’t return. Gen must go on an adventure herself. She climbs her own beanstalk and immediately meets the giant’s beautiful sister. Her brother the giant left with Jack to get the harp and they have both been missing for weeks. So the girls set off together on an adventure and things risk becoming exciting. Thankfully we dodge this bullet as the girls are captured by, wait for it, Robin and his band of merry men.

Well, it’s not really Robin, but its an excellent attempt to mash up the fairy tale and the legend. It’s actually Robert the evil king’s son who has changed his name to Robin because no one will suspect he is the king’s son with a different name, amirite? He then ran away to hide in the woods and now steals money from the rich to give to the poor. He also, by the way, takes over Gen’s little adventure and runs things from here on out. The book makes painfully careful attempts to not be sexist in either word or thought but the actions scream it at every turn.

I won’t spoil the ending but it actually does manage to get even worse from here. The ending itself manages to make the entire lead up to it seem like over reaction and needless melodrama, pain, and suffering. It’s really, really bad. Even the epilogue after it that attempts to wrap up the plot holes still manages to miss a few.

That being said, If I was in elementary school, or maybe even middle school, this book would have rocked my world. For a teen book it really seems to me to be more written at that level. For younger, reluctant readers who are into fairy tales this series will probably work out well. For me though there is a difference between keeping it light and safe for the helicopter parents out there and boring the kid out of their mind with a story too shy and careful to liven up the pages.

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