Brave Story, by Miyuki Miyabe

The world is full of fantasy novels featuring eleven-year-old boys with crappy home lives, but Miyuki Miyabe’s Brave Story stands out from the crowd. This award-winning novel combines conventional fantasy elements with an intensely moving coming-of-age story about divorce, family, and friendship. The only question is: can a dark, convoluted, million-page-long novel with a bright and kid-friendly cover find the audience it deserves*?

Brave Story is the story of Wataru, a young Japanese boy growing up in a strict, old-fashioned household. When Wataru’s father abandons his family and his mother tries to commit suicide, Wataru finds a doorway to the magical world of Vision, and sets off on a journey to change his family’s fate.

While the fantasy scenes in Miyabe’s novel are fairly conventional, the opening of her story is anything but. Part One of Brave Story is slow-moving, intimate, and unbelievably depressing. Miyabe’s measured, deliberate pace (the action doesn't kick into high gear until well after the hundred page mark) allows readers plenty of time to get comfortable in Wataru’s head, and this familiarity gives his family’s collapse unusual emotional impact.

While its cartoonish cover and youthful protagonist suggest that Brave Story belongs in the children’s section, Miyabe’s book isn’t a great choice for young readers. Setting aside the book’s length (816 pages), limited author name recognition, and gloom-filled opening half, Brave Story costs $23.99, five dollars more than most hardcover titles for kids. Brave Story is much better suited to adult or teen readers—it requires an audience capable of appreciating scope, creativity, and devastating kicks to the emotional shins.

*Obviously, we’re excluding the later Harry Potter titles from this question, because Rowling didn’t get all epic and depressing until she’d reeled in readers with the Weasley twins and Quidditch.
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


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