There’s a long tradition of middle grade stories in which characters find themselves needing to work together to solve their problems without the help of adults. Some of these stories are grounded in reality, and some are defined by exaggerated silliness. Many open up readers to unexplored realms of fantasy.
BEYOND THE DOORS by David Neilsen aims to be a part of that last category. A new middle grade fantasy coming in at just over 350 pages, it's a book for voracious readers looking for a story they can spend time inhabiting.
The main characters are four siblings — Janice, Zach, Sydney, and Alexa. It’s hard to call any one of them a main character since the author changes perspective from child to child. As the story shifts between them, the written voice is personalized just enough to reflect the perspective of each in turn. Just like real siblings, the four kids constantly rotate between being great friends and completely angry with each other.
When disaster strikes the family, the kids find themselves moving in with their eccentric aunt Gladys, to live in her even more eccentric house. The only way in is through a drawbridge-type entrance. The only food is boxes upon boxes of her favorite cereal. The only doors found anywhere are found in piles, with none mounted to keep the rooms separated. Not long after moving in, the kids discover their aunt has some unusual habits and activities, and even apparel, as she seems to disappear for lengths of time and is seen walking around in what looks like a beekeeper’s outfit with heavy gloves. Once they discover their aunt’s secret room, the one place where a door is actually intact, they get caught up in adventure (some more willingly than others) that not only threatens the state of their family but puts the personalities of themselves and the ones they love in serious jeopardy.
With its quirky comedic voice, relatable characters, and layers of fantasy elements, BEYOND THE DOORS is the kind of book the will appeal to readers who enjoy stories that activate the imagination.