Among Others by Jo Walton is a delightful book. I think that most people who grew up as readers will experience a delight in reading this one.
It is about a couple of things. The narrator, Mori, is a 16 year old Welsh girl who has been moved from her home in Wales to an English boarding school. We quickly learn that she had a twin sister who has been killed recently and that she has moved to get away from her mother. The incident that resulted in her twin’s death also caused Mori to need a cane to walk. Thus, Mori is among others in her move to England.
Mori also loves reading science fiction and fantasy. This is also part of the narration as Mori describes the books she is reading or has read. The description of being a teenager who loves to read (and SF & F in particular) resonated with me. I also loved to read (still do) growing up and many of Mori’s thoughts were similar to thoughts I had growing up with books. I agreed with many of the thoughts that Mori had about the books she was reading, but not all. This increased the realism of the story to me. For example, she mentions that Stand on Zanzibar is John Brunner’s masterpiece and nothing else he writes is quite up to snuff:
Reading The Shockwave Rider, Brunner. It’s very good, but it isn’t Stand on Zanzibar. I wonder what it’s like to have written your masterpiece, and to know you’ll never do it again.
This very much seemed like the opinion someone at 16 would have. Very definite and somewhat cruel–without meaning to be, of course. I actually prefer The Shockwave Rider out of the two books. So, in a way there was an interesting conversation going on between Mori, myself and my own younger self as I was reading the book.
Of course, Mori’s being a lover of SF&F and reading introduces a second otherness into the story. She is a reader among all of the others who don’t.
Mori also is able to see fairies and perform magic. The magic and the fairies are different than what one finds in books. Mori mentions a few times that she wishes the magic would follow nice neat rules like in many books. It doesn’t though–it follows a different sort of cause and effect relationship. Thus, Mori is among others in another way of participating in a magical world to which most people don’t have access.
It’s also about a number of other things, but telling would be spoiling. So, go out and read it already.