Among Others is a book about reading. It's also about a fifteen-year-old woman named Morwenna Phelps, a twin who lost her sister about a year ago, who has been taken in by her father and his sisters, and who is sent to a boarding school. A reader of fantasy and science fiction, she finds solace and friendship in the books she reads, and once she discovers her father is also into the genre, and that there's a science fiction book club that takes place at the public library near her school, her world begins to settle, to take shape.
Any avid reader will find a lot of themselves in Morwenna. Whether we read because we were outcasts, or whether our reading made us outcasts, one way or another, we experienced a time in our lives where reading was more important than anything else. As we grow older, the rest of our lives take on a similar importance, but that love of reading, that love of stories, never goes away. Morwenna's coming-of-age journey is strangely compelling, and relatable, and I enjoyed it a great deal.
Among Others is also about magic. Kind of. Morwenna is our narrator, and it's clear that the death of her twin has had a tremendous effect on her. Is the magic real, or is it a coping mechanism? Walton has stated on her Website that the magic is real (and the fact that at least one other character can also see it certainly reinforces that conclusion), but we never see the events from anyone else's perspective, and we can't be certain that Morwenna is a reliable narrator. If her mother was mad, could she have picked up some of that madness? And if so, are the events she tells us real, or imagined?
Knowing that this book won the Hugo and the Nebula for the year it was eligible, I was expecting a lot out of it. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the story didn't quite meet those expectations. I liked it, and I enjoyed Walton's style, but it didn't seem award-worthy to me. Maybe it was the name-dropping of all the authors and books that gave it some extra recognition? I don't know. It was certainly enjoyable, regardless.