Get a free SCARS short story. Sign up for News & Goodies from YA Author Cheryl Rainfield

My Books
See Next Book
STAINED book cover

Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

SCARS book cover

Kendra must face her past and stop hurting herself--before it's too late.

Awards: #1 in the Top 10 ALA Quick Picks, ALA's Rainbow List, a Governor General Literary Award Finalist, Staff Pick for Teaching Tolerance.

Yes, it's my own arm on the cover of SCARS.

HUNTED book cover

Caitlyn, a telepath in a world where having any paranormal power at all can kill her, must decide between saving herself or saving the world.

Awards: A finalist for the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award.


Kate sees visions of the future--but only when she has an asthma attack. When she "sees" her sister being beaten, and a schoolmate killing herself, Kate must trigger more attacks--but that could kill her.

Awards: 2013 Gold Winner, Wise Bear Digital Awards, YA Paranormal category.

STAINED book cover

Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

See Previous Book

Love my books?
Join my Street Team!

You'll have my deep gratitude, hear book news first, get swag, and enter to win private contests

Teen Books That Have Something to Say

Journey Between Worlds


Journey Between Worlds
by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
Putnam/Penguin,(May 2006)
ISBN-10: 0399245324

My rating:

I still don't like to think about graduation day. I still hate to relive that evening, the first evening that I knew we were going to Mars.
What surprised me most was that Dad was so happy about it. We sat on one of the benches in the quad and talked while I was waiting for Ross to get his car packed. (I'd explained about our date, when Dad wanted to take me out for something to eat.) I held the ticket envelope next to my diploma, my damp fingers making a soiled blotch over the triple globes.
"Aren't you excited, honey?" Dad demanded.
Excited wasn't the word for it. Flabbergasted would have been closer. But I was trying to act calm while I got up courage to tell Dad that I'd rather not go to Mars at all.
--Journey Between Worlds, Sylvia Louise Engdahl, p. 13.

Eighteen-year-old Melinda doesn't want to go to Mars, unlike some other graduates, who'd love to go there for the prestige or the money. Melinda is more homebound; she's rooted in history, in her sense of belonging to her grandmother's house and land, the one real parent figure who she's spent time with. She dreams of having a simple life, of settling down with her boyfriend, Ross, and becoming a teacher. But when her Dad, who she's rarely spent any quality time with, surprises her with an expensive ticket to Mars as a graduation present, and she hears how her dead mother wanted so much to travel to Mars, Melinda decides to go.

In the beginning, Melinda is clearly biased against Mars, and the people who live on the colonies there. She loves earth, and can't imagine anyone wanting or choosing to live on Mars, where people can't support themselves, or breathe without being inside the domes or having a suit with air. On the long flight over, and later, after she arrives, she gets off to a bad start with some of the colonizers, saying bigoted things without realizing how offensive she sounds. But gradually, with encouragement from Alex, a kind, mature Mars boy she met on the flight there, Melinda starts to see things differently. But when tragedy occurs, and she starts to realize that she's in love with Alex, she has to decide whether she can give up earth--which is what has always made her feel safe---or give up her true love.

Journey Between Worlds is part sci-fi tale, larger-part romance. Readers who like gentle love stories should enjoy this book; the relationship between Melinda and Alex, and her gradual realization of how she doesn't care for Ross, but does care for Alex, is nicely woven throughout the story. This is also a great book for readers who are new to sci-fi; most of the book focuses on Melinda's experience on earth and her trip to Mars, Melinda herself does not want to travel into space, and the book is focused on the challenges Melinda faces.

Journey Between Worlds was first published in 1970, and this version is revised and updated; at times this is apparent. The beginning of the book is somewhat slow and slightly awkward, and some of Melinda's ways of thinking are dated--assuming she should just marry a boy, and give in to whatever he wants and asks of her--and yet, sadly, sexism still needs to be challenged today. This is offset by the reader coming to care about Melinda, and watching her growth. Melinda gradually comes more into herself and her own strength, and although this occurs through her love for another boy, this change is hope-filled and inspiring.

Melinda is a likeable character, if at times a little unemotional and too much into pleasing others; we learn that she has rarely spent any time with her Dad, but we don't learn much about how she feels about that, and we often see her acting out of wanting to please others or conform. However, her wanting to please others does give her character room to grow. Melinda's sometimes deep or philosophical thoughts may resonate with readers, and they layer the book with richness. Melinda also makes many good observations and insights about people, biases, and interactions that ring true, and help both Melinda and the other characters feel more real.

The setting is supposed to be set in the future, although it often feels set in the recent past. There are many intriguing ideas about the shape of the future, however, there are also many little snags for current readers. Most readers today are very computer-savvy, and the methods Melinda and the people on Mars use to transmit messages or download reading material seem only current or even outdated, not futuristic, as does the need to show the travelers how to download books or games, or the people on Mars watching TV in their living rooms. A lot is made of the beach near where Melinda's grandmother lives, but there is also a focus on increased population that seems at odds with this beach being unpopulated, free for her to walk along. And Melinda's ties to and focus on her ancestors and a pioneer past seem to stick out oddly in a book about the future, even though there are clear ties made with Mars colonizers. Still, this may not be true for every reader.

The foreshadowing found throughout the book helps spike interest and keep the reader caring about what happens to Melinda, and the troubles we know lie ahead for her. Technical or scientific information is brought into the story in small, digestible snippets, and in a conversational tone, so that the reader is eased into them.

Melinda changes vastly over time, though gradually, and it is this gradual change, and the many nudges from people she cares about, that help make the change believable. In addition, her bias is so overt that the reader can't help being aware of it even when Melinda herself is not, and the reader roots for Melinda to see her bias and change. The reader may especially root for Melinda because she is likeable, and can allow herself to open up to new experiences and work past her fear. There is also a nice contrast between Melinda and Alex, and how their different upbringings have clearly influenced the way they think and act.

There were a few places where it felt like the reader was being told information or being shown something to make sure the reader got the point, and a few things that were repeated too many times---but overall the information was nicely placed.

Engdahl skillfully shows us, at times, what Melinda really feels or thinks by having her repeatedly tell herself the opposite, as if she's desperately trying to convince herself of its truth. This also acts as a way of letting readers in on a kind of secret---allowing readers the satisfaction of figuring something out for themselves, and seeing so clearly what Melinda is not allowing herself to know. Readers may also recognize Melinda's denial in themselves or in others. We see Melinda move from being so sure that her life is with Ross that she doesn't even question it, to seeing how her mind is stimulated by Alex, and how she is appreciated by him and encouraged by him to do something with her life.

The Mars colonizers show some co-operative, thoughtful ways of organizing a culture that we could learn from, and these and other philosophical, political, and environmentally-conscious suggestions woven throughout the story help to bring a sense of hopefulness.

There are some good character changes, Melinda's in particular, but her Dad also changes and begins to pay more attention to his daughter, hoping to enlighten her. Romantics will also enjoy the way that Melinda's love for Alex helps her change, and the happy, heartening ending. Love wins out. An enjoyable read. Recommended.

If you are interested in this book, you can read a longer excerpt at the author's site:, read some short stories and essays written by the author, look at Engdahl's other books, and more.

-Added September 2006

Want more books?

Go back to Magic Around Us: Magic and Fantasy Fiction to find great Teen Books That Have Something to Say.

Or, go to Teen Books That Have Something to Say to see all of the books.