Danika reviews Megume and the Trees by Sarah Toshiko Hasu

 

I have so many Thoughts (questions, really) about this book, but 99% of them are spoilers. There are trigger warnings also within the spoiler text, so keep that in mind if its relevant.

Megume and the Trees is a fairy-tale-like story about a fifteen-year-old girl who runs after a dog into the forest and finds herself caught in a surreal sequence of events there. The writing is straight-forward and doesn’t distract from the story, and the story itself is interesting in that fairy tale way. Megume is a Japanese-American teenager who is still reeling from the death of her mother and the struggle with her father and stepmother. Despite the dangers of the woods, Megume is not particularly motivated to go back to her normal life. Along the way she meets her dead grandfather and a World War II nurse forever caught in the bombing of Pearl Harbor. From here on are blatant spoilers, because it’s all I can think about with this book.

[spoilers] I don’t know what to think of this ending! I hadn’t really bothered to look for an explanation of why she was in these bizarre, dreamlike woods… I guess it was a sort of purgatory-type area between one life and the next, where she had to come to terms with her previous life…? So Megume was dead the whole time. I think she entered the woods after jumping off the bridge? Of course, it’s not entirely clear. I just don’t know what to think about a teen book that ends (begins? both?) with a suicide, especially one that is painted as a beautiful act. I am not sure who to recommend this book to. It seems kind of irresponsible to hand a book that has a surprise suicide at the end, especially to a young person.

I was also just really confused by the ending, because Megume seems to have come to terms with her life and wants to go back to her life outside the woods. At that point, she jumps into the waterfall and walks out into the ocean, which I guess is to move on to a new life, but it seems counter intuitive.

Also, why the dog?! Why? As soon as Sasurai died, I was drawn out the story. It’s just so, so common to kill off the dog for dramatic effect in a book. Why bother having her reunite with the dog and then die? And why did she die, considering her biggest wound was a cut paw? And how did she die if the woods are an in-between place between worlds/lives/realms/etc? Wouldn’t Kat have died, too, then? Were the Grandfather and Sasu not really there the whole time?

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Megume and the Trees. I think that I would have enjoyed the book more if I had known the whole time that Megume had already committed suicide. With it being at the end, I just felt betrayed by the book. [end spoilers]

Mostly, though, I want other people to read this book so we can discuss it. I think it’s a really interesting story, but I’m divided on it.

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