Review of The Way Back

The Way Back
by Gavriel Savit
Middle School, High School    Knopf    368 pp.    g
9/20    978-1-98489-462-5    $18.99
Library ed.  978-1-9848-9463-2    $20.99
e-book ed.  978-1-9848-9464-9    $10.99

In this dark fantasy set in a nineteenth-century shtetl in Eastern Europe, grieving teens Bluma (who’s lost her grandmother) and Yehuda Leib (who found and lost his absent father in the same moment) travel to the Far Country and match wits with demons and other figures drawn from Jewish folklore, including the Angel of Death. Narrated with a storyteller’s cadence (“And this is how it came to pass that there, beneath her bed, Bluma descended into the sleep of the grieving under the watchful gaze of her own unblinking eyes”), the winding tale is full of creepy characters and intriguing magical objects, as the protagonists are confronted with choices that force them to face mortality. Savit (Anna and the Swallow Man, rev. 1/16) crafts an absorbing fantasy and gives teens plenty to contemplate about life, love, storytelling, and family.

From the September/October 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax
Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, associate editor of The Horn Book Magazine, is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. She is a current member of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award committee, and has served on the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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