A boy deals with his grief.
Fred is still overwhelmed by the loss of his beloved dog, Casey. One day, while walking home and bouncing Casey’s worn tennis ball, Fred loses the ball down a sewer grate. Pursuing the ball, Fred finds himself tumbling down into a parallel universe where his mother and sister are happy, his doppelgänger, called Freddie, is popular and confident, and most importantly, Casey is still alive. As Fred explores this alternate reality with Casey and Freddie, he also delves through his own grieving process, which the author captures gently, letting readers soak up the ebb and flow of Fred’s emotions. As the dimensional differences increase and the author introduces more and more fantastical elements, readers have a sure footing in their emotional connection to Fred, allowing the author to introduce some strange, Miyazaki-esque ideas and imagery with ease. Less successful is the author’s bizarre pivot regarding Fred’s true source of grief. The reveal is indeed stunning, and the emotional payoff is earned, but the decision to camouflage his pain feels like a bait and switch.
An ambitious, touching work that goes a step too far. (Fantasy. 9-12)