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Journey to the End of the World

Review

Journey to the End of the World

Henning Mankell's previous novels featuring teenager Joel
Gustafson have been quiet books, well suited to their setting in a
small town in northern Sweden. More happens inside Joel's head than
outside it, and readers who have been fortunate enough to follow
his growth over three books know that he has been coming into his
own, changing from a boy with fanciful visions and barely hidden
fears to one whose growing confidence, sense of self, and
understanding of the world has not damped his curiosity one
bit.

Now, in JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE WORLD, the final book about
Joel and his father, Mankell realizes his earlier vision while
still granting readers plenty of surprises, finally allowing Joel
to go, and grow, into the world around him.

As the novel opens, Joel is about to turn 15, a landmark
birthday for him: "He'll be allowed to ride a moped. And see
adults-only films. His birthday will be the day he no longer needs
to sneak into the cinema without being seen. He'll be able to walk
past the caretaker with a ticket in his hand. Becoming fifteen is
an important event. But he feels worried. What will happen?" Of
course, even more of a landmark than the ability to watch adult
films is the fact that he'll no longer be required to attend
school. This combination of anticipation and trepidation will be
familiar to anyone who's read previous books about Joel. For that
matter, it will be familiar to anyone who's been a teenager, who's
stood at that crossroads between childhood and adulthood without a
clear map in hand.

Joel is convinced that now is the time to follow through on his
father's long-term plan to finally quit his job as a lumberjack and
return to life as a sailor, the life Joel also wants to claim for
himself. But when his dad gets a letter revealing the whereabouts
of his long-lost mother, everyone's plans might be rerouted. The
trip to Stockholm further fuels Joel's wanderlust; for his father,
however, the journey does just the opposite, driving him back to
northern Sweden, to the quiet life he never thought he wanted.

JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE WORLD is both heartbreaking and
thoroughly satisfying, as Joel must --- in somewhat dramatic
fashion --- take leave of his childhood home even as he pursues his
childhood dreams. At times it may seem that Mankell is trying to
tie up too many of the stories he's spent three books drawing out;
it's hard to say if Joel's rapid transformation into an
independent, self-reliant young man seems abrupt because of the
story or because of his (still very young) age. Will Joel's future
be as expansive as his imagination? Mankell's storytelling about
Joel may be done, but his character --- and future journeys ---
will likely live on for a very long time in readers' own
imaginations.

    -

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on October 18, 2011

Journey to the End of the World
by Henning Mankell

  • Publication Date: January 25, 2011
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0385734980
  • ISBN-13: 9780385734981