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Journey Between Worlds by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
Review by Paul Haggerty
Putnam Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0399245324
Date: 18 May, 2006 List Price $17.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

If it weren't for her boyfriend being a total pill, Melinda might still have gotten out of the trip. But Ross is the kind of guy you wish steamrollers would smoosh; so caught up in what he wants he can't see that ordering Melinda to do his bidding is counter-productive. So the next thing she knows, she's told him she'll see him in a year, and plopped herself down in the departure lounge waiting for her shuttle to board, and dreading the thought of months spent on a dismal, backwater, uncivilized, hellhole like Mars. As you can tell, she and the natives are going to get along just fine.

But while sharing a table in the spaceport cafeteria, she meets Alex, a 2nd generation Martian just returning to Mars after spending a year on Earth as part of his schooling. After agreeing to carry his book aboard since he'd otherwise be over his weight allowance (isn't that a really big security no no?), Melinda and Alex strike up a friendship that will last for her whole trip, despite the fact that she alternately fascinates and insults him with her earth-centric concepts of reality. And while it becomes increasingly clear that Alex would like to have a more complicated relationship, Melinda continues to cling to her fantasies of a life with Ross back on Earth, and Alex, being the decent fellow that he is, isn't going to press the matter.

Once on Mars, Melinda has to learn to get along, and while insulting people left and right at first, gradually, with Alex's help, learns to appreciate that things can be different without being either better or worse. It's a set of hard won lessons that she needs to learn over and over before it finally sinks past her brain and into her heart where it can finally take root. There's going to be a lot of pain and suffering in the meantime, but Melinda is tougher than she knows, and her heart is in the right place. Unfortunately it's her mouth that makes all the noise.

Journey Between Worlds is an exploration novel of self and place. Melinda starts out thinking she understands the universe and her place within it. But new concepts, locations, and people have a way of kicking over our conceptual sand castles, and Melinda, like so many pseudo-adults, is in for rude awakenings, culture shocks, a the very worst thing possible; hard evidence that she doesn't know everything.

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