My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Title: The World On Either Side
Author: Diane Terrana
Format: eBook (NetGalley)
Publication: September 10, 2019
Categories: Grief, Self-Harm, Young Adult, World Issues, Contemporary
Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**
After the death of her boyfriend, sixteen-year old Valentine stops going to school, quits seeing her friends, and, finally, won’t leave her bed. Desperate for her daughter to recover, Valentine’s mother takes her on a trek in Thailand. In the mountains north of Chiang Mai, Valentine finds a world she didn’t know existed, where houses are on stilts and elephants still roam wild. She learns about the Burmese civil war and the relentless violence against the Karen and Rohingya peoples.
Then she meets Lin, a mysterious young elephant keeper tormented by his hidden past, and an orphaned elephant calf, pursued by violent poachers. Together, the three flee deep into the jungle, looking for refuge and redemption.
Thank you to Orca Book Publishers and NetGalley for giving me the chance to read this eArc.
I used to be Valentine. I had that hard knot of pain in my heart that is described so well in this book after dealing with grief for a few years. That’s why I love The World On Either Side so much. I didn’t have that pain in my heart as a teenager though, I had it at twenty-nine and it just goes to show how this book could speak to young adults and adults as well.
I went into this book knowing it would deal with grief but I was afraid it would gloss over the issues happening in Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) – issues I don’t really know well enough of myself. But this story took Valentine’s grief, and the issues going on in these countries and gave me a book that spoke to my heart. It also gave me an understanding of the disturbing things going in these countries.
Valentine is going through so much after her boyfriend Amir dies. She is depressed and in a tunnel of grief. Her parents are afraid to lose her but she can’t seem to come out of the dark cave she’s in. So her mom decides that they leave Canada and take a trip to Thailand together. And not just to the city of Bangkok, they are signed up to trek through the hills of Northern Thailand to visit the hill tribes. It’s her mom’s desperate attempt to make her leave the room she hasn’t left since Amir has died.
They meet up with a small group of other tourists as they journey through the hills of Thailand, close to the Myanmar border. They ride elephants, sleep in sleeping bags and barely get to bathe. We get a small glimpse of the political strife happening between the indigenous tribes and government of Myanmar. We also get some lessons on Buddhism.
The book also touched on the subject of elephants and poachers. I think that’s when my heart started to really break, the moment the elephants arrive. It explored the bond between mother and child, not only in the human world, but the animal world as well – in particular with elephants who feel strongly about their young and vice versa. Elephants who grieve. Then there is Lin, who’s backstory is unimaginable and scary for anyone who lives a safe life outside of these countries. I hurt for Lin and what he has been through. He is one of the guides for the group and he has a past that comes back to haunt him and Valentine.
By the end of this book, Valentine sees how much forgiveness plays a big part in healing her broken spirit and how some things in life are not so black and white, especially when it comes to Lin and his life choices. My heart was so sore for Valentine, her mom, for the elephants, Lin, the Karen tribe, the Rohingya and everyone caught up in personal grief and turmoil and the violence that the government has brought upon the people.
I love how courage is what gets our characters through this trek. Valentine goes through some difficult situations on this trip but she has to dig down deep to be braver than she’s ever had to be. We see that she does have fight in her still. Lin’s story also shows us what kind of courage it took for him to survive the life he’s led, and the kind of future that will be best for his situation. We even see how all of this affects Valentine’s mom and how she is fighting for her daughter and the toll it takes.
This book is wonderfully written with the lush descriptions of the trek in the mountains of Thailand through a tourists’ point of view and someone like Lin who belongs there and nowhere at the same time. I felt like I was there with the characters. It made me want to learn more about the Karen and Rohingya tribes and hope one day the conflict will stop. This story explored mental health, love, loss and world issues. And though at times there are dark scenes in this book, the story touched my heart so deeply, the heart that was once a painful ball of hurt and at times still is.
I absolutely loved this book and finished it in one day. I definitely will need a copy of it on my shelf when it releases in September and I look forward to reading more books from this author!
Get it here: Amazon
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