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Journey Between Worlds    by Sylvia Engdahl order for
Journey Between Worlds
by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2006 (1970)
* *   Reviewed by Anise Hollingshead

Journey Between Worlds is an updated reissue of a science fiction novel for teens by Sylvia Engdahl, originally published in 1970. As many things have changed in the field of science since then, some of the background facts were updated, and also some story details dealing with social mores were changed. This review is of the 2006 version. Melinda Ashley is about to graduate from high school, spend the summer with her dad, begin college in the fall, and then get married, all in that order. Or so she believes. Melinda's life is soon to change drastically.

Melinda and her dad had been forced by circumstances to live apart much of the time, ever since her mother died. His job required a lot of travel, and it just wasn't feasible to take her with him and move every year. So, she lived with her grandmother for several years until it was time to attend boarding school - she was now preparing to graduate. She looks forward to getting to know her father better over the summer, and wonders where they will spend their time together. He's keeping their summer plans a surprise. And sure enough, when she finds out where they're going, she's very surprised! It's not every day a girl gets to go to Mars.

The rest of the story deals with all the problems inherent in traveling a great distance to stay for an extended period of time, dealing with another culture, and other more ordinary issues that most teens have.

Yes, while this novel is presented as science fiction, it's actually a teen novel with a little romance thrown in. While the backdrop of Mars and the accompanying scientific facts coupled with imagined space fiction is entertaining, it doesn't have all that much to do with the story, which mostly deals with Melinda learning how to live in different circumstances. She could as well have moved to Africa or China and experienced the same things. A novel about space travel, this isn't.

However, for a teen read, it's very good. Readers are instantly drawn to Melinda, who is portrayed realistically. While she has problems like most teens do, they are ordinary problems. She's not suicidal, homicidal, or a closet drug addict. She doesn't cut herself, nor does she have anorexia. Amazingly, she's not even having sex with her long-time boyfriend, at least we're not told that she is. She does have issues with her Dad, who's more of a buddy than a father, and her boyfriend, who wants to control her life. Top that off with a lot of well-meaning Martians who try to ram the joys of Mars down her throat every two minutes, well, we can all sympathize with her.

This is a nice, light introduction to science fiction that most girls will enjoy. If you've been trying to get your daughters to read Battlefield Earth or Dune to no avail, try this for a little lighter reading. You may be surprised how much they like it.

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