Review Detail

Kids Fiction 670
heavy and emotional read
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
RIVERLAND is a riveting and complex middle grade magical realism novel. Eleanor and her sister, Mike (nickname, everyone except their father calls her that- he calls her Mary), have created a safe space under Eleanor's bed for the bad nights. Eleanor tells Mike stories and they try to ignore the horrible sounds from downstairs. The two have also constructed many rules in their minds about how they must behave to keep their father from becoming a monster.

Eleanor and Mike believe in house magic, which is how things clean up after these episodes. When their father breaks an heirloom that they thought was a witch ball, a river begins to appear under Eleanor's bed, and they travel to another world. They learn that the barrier has been broken and now they must find a way to repair it. At the same time, their lives are becoming more dangerous and the rules are becoming more complex.

What I loved: The imagery is absolutely gorgeous and the story is absolutely heart-wrenching. This book gives new insights into the psychology of victims of abuse and the ways that they organize their lives and thoughts. The magical realism elements are really interesting and bring new insights to the characters through their exploration of riverland.

I would caution readers to approach with care, as this is a very heavy read and deals with some difficult situations of child abuse (physical, emotional). This may be better for older middle grade readers and for older audiences. Regardless, it's a powerful book.

Final verdict: Emotionally heavy with important themes and beautiful imagery, RIVERLAND is a powerful middle grade novel about dealing with the impossible. This novel is full of sisterly love and delves into the psychology of victims of abuse.
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