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Between Two Worlds

Review

Between Two Worlds

BETWEEN TWO WORLDS is a historical fiction novel set in Greenland, near the North Pole.which follows the story of a 16-year-old Inuit girl named Eqariusasq, also known as Billy Bah, and her experiences when a ship full of American explorers arrives in her land. The ship and crew is led by legendary explorer Robert Peary, and his quest to reachthe North Pole and share the Inuit culture with the rest of the world has brought to Billy Bah’s village many times. But this time he has gone too far north and has been missing for almost a year, so his wife and daughter --- Mitti and Marie --- come back with his ship and crew to search for him, and ask for Billy’s help.

During this overarching quest, a love triangle develops between Billy Bah and Angulluk --- her arrogant, bossy, but simultaneously caring and brave husband --- and Duncan, an American sailor. As the dark and harsh winter closes in around them all, Billy Bah is forced to confront her internal struggles and fears, figure out how to maintain the relationships in her life, and discover what her future has in store for her.

BETWEEN TWO WORLDS shares an abundance of facts that is sure to draw readers into this strange and intriguing world and its people.  However, I unfortunately found the story and the writing to be a bit lacking. Regarding the writing, it was solid enough, but never quite impressive. It read almost like a glorified history textbook, which is good in the sense that it made history enjoyable, but it never quite felt like a novel. With the Arctic as its setting, I wish there had been more beautiful and poetic descriptions of the landscapes.

BETWEEN TWO WORLDS shares an abundance of facts that is sure to draw readers into this strange and intriguing world and its people.

As for the story, my biggest issues were that the pacing was achingly slow, there was no substance behind the love triangle, and every conflict that came up was almost immediately resolved. The book was 261 pages long, and it wasn’t until halfway through that anyone actually started forming an expedition to go rescue Peary. As interesting as it was to learn about such a unique culture, I felt that the repetition of the Inuit’s life caused the story to drag.

On the love triangle, Billy Bah has but one extended scene with Duncan, and while some of their dialogue is nice, it did not strike me as enough to make Billy Bah fall in love with him by the end of the chapter. I found myself groaning every time she would mention loving him, because while Angulluk wasn’t always the best husband, there was at least substance to Angulluk’s character and their relationship. I feel like Duncan got in the way of what could have been a rather gripping storyline between Billy Bah and Angulluk struggling with their young but mature marriage.

Lastly, when conflicts would arise, they would be resolved almost immediately, leaving me no time to fear for the characters. Therefore, I never quite developed a relationship with any of them. Anything I did feel was more of interest than an actual connection. For example, at one point, Billy Bah fell through the ice and was afraid that her toes would have to be amputated. Within the next page or two, though, it became quite clear that this wasn’t going to happen, so I never felt the fear of seeing the protagonist in danger. Arguments between characters were resolved on the same page, and one of the biggest plot reveals of the book came and went within three pages and was only scarcely mentioned in later chapters.

I continued on past the last page of the story to read the author’s note, and discovered that BETWEEN TWO WORLDS was a product of a nonfiction book she wrote on the same story. I think that because the writing wasn’t that strong and I only connected to a few characters but the plot itself is interesting, I might have connected more to the nonfiction version.

The author is clearly a brilliant historian, I highly respect her for her work, and I hope that she is praised for her knowledge.  I don’t think the transition from nonfiction to fiction was as successful as perhaps hoped, and people looking for a more enveloping storyline, complex characters and high imagery might not be satisfied. However, there are people who like reading this kind of historical fiction, and that audience will greatly enjoy this book.

Reviewed by Corinne Fox on April 23, 2014

Between Two Worlds
by Katherine Kirkpatrick

  • Publication Date: April 8, 2014
  • Genres: Young Adult 14+
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
  • ISBN-10: 0385740476
  • ISBN-13: 9780385740470