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This Was Our Pact: 06/15/21
This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews opens with a lantern festival. A village is releasing paper lanterns into their river to sail out to sea. A group of boys get on their bikes and make a pact to ride past the bridge to see where the lanterns really go. One by one they give up until there are only two left. And that's when the story really begins.
There's a local legend that the lanterns fly up into the sky to join the Milky Way. The remaining boys are skeptics. But as they get beyond the bounds of their known world, things get strange. Their world views are challenged by the characters they meet and the places they go.
Ryan Andrews lives in Japan. This Was Our Pact reflects his experience by being a blend of western (I would hazard North American) and Japanese imagery. This is a world where the Blue Highway can be mapped by a magical crow and a talking bear is on his first solo fishing trip.
This middle grade novel also sits on the road narrative spectrum. The two boys who stick with the journey beyond the bridge quickly get in over their heads. As they are vulnerable, they are marginalized travelers (66). Their journey takes them well beyond the known or expected world, one they haven't conceived of, a utopia (FF). But their journey, save for a few detours, is mapped to the road they originally started on. It's a blue highway (33) in the sense that it's paved, traveled by a bus route, and well enough maintained for their bicycles. To summarize, This Was Our Pact is about marginalized travelers going to utopia via the blue highway (66FF33).