Title: Over the Woodward Wall.
Series: The Up-and-Under #1.
Writer(s): A. Deborah Baker.
Format: Digital Copy.
Release Date: October 6th, 2020.
My Overall Rating:
How unsettling would it be for a child to find themselves in a world that they don’t know, outside of their usual setting, forced to navigate through it to find comfort and security? Leave it to their imagination to make matters worse, or better for some, as every instant could turn into a moment of epiphany or a grand lesson in life that could change a person fundamentally. However, it is when facing adversity that one realizes that there is so much to take away from life than its harsh obstacles and unguided trials. Author A. Deborah Baker, a pseudonym for Seanan McGuire and also the name of a character in Middlegame, presents her latest middle-grade novel, the first of a series, that offers a psychedelic and memorable adventure into a foreign and quirky land called the Up and Under.
What is Over the Woodward Wall about? Set in an utterly normal town, two children live on the same street but embrace different lives. On one hand, Hepzibah, mostly known under the name Zib, is an adventurer who loves her foray into the woods and doesn’t have a care in the world for discipline and stationary activities. On the other hand, Avery is a cautionary child who loves structure, cleanliness, and routine. They both have never met each other before but will soon be entangled in an unforeseeable adventure when a prompted detour from home to school forces them to confront a low stone wall. Compelled to climb over, they incidentally arrive into the Up and Under, a fairytale land where mysteries are coated over mysteries while strange creatures roam this world. Unfortunately for them, the only way out is in.
“You began this story together, whether you intended to or not. You’ll end it the same way, or you won’t end it at all.”— A. Deborah Baker
Once again, author A. Deborah Baker excels in story-telling through her mesmerizing and enthralling writing style, naturally capturing an amusing tone that perfectly fits with the premise of this story. Quickly, you realize that this story establishes a definitive fairytale style reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland but offers a parallel and authentic take on that narrative. The journey at hand is without a doubt captivating as both children embark on an adventure unlike anything imaginable and always has a surprising new setting to introduce and explore as you progress through the story. To further immerse the reader into this quirky journey is the introduction of various characters with unique features, voices, and motives that instantly enhance the immersion into this strange yet exquisite land.
Beyond the effortlessly laid out world that single-handedly draws in the reader and justifies the reading experience, it is through her two protagonists that author A. Deborah Baker brilliantly explores the complexity of youngsters in a cruel world and how their personalities forge their experience, either playing for or against them during perilous and trying moments. The polar opposite personalities of these two characters also capture a singular synergy between these two allies who have to learn the hard way to work together if they are to survive this adventure. With the underlying life lessons cleverly and beautifully interspersed into the narrative, this simply makes for a truly endearing and entertaining tale to pick up and explore.
Over the Woodward Wall is a whimsical adventure into a tempestuous wonderland filled with subtle life lessons and room for plenty of self-discovery for two young children.