Worlds Apart: Story Thieves, Book 5

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Worlds Apart: Story Thieves, Book 5 Book Poster Image
Wild adventures, cameos, recaps in loony series finale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Much craziness, not much educational content, but interesting speculation on the relationship of fact and fiction, and why they both are important.

Positive Messages

Amid all the shenanigans, strong messages about friendship, loyalty, teamwork, and thinking outside the box. Also family, as Bethany's determination to reunite her world-divided parents drives much of the action.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bethany determined to save her father; she also comes to realize that she needs both parts of herself to be who she is and succeed. Owen shows much death-defying courage; his heroic, self-sacrificing act in an earlier book plays a big role here, as does putting right the deception he's practiced with another character. Fictional characters show courage, ingenuity, teamwork, awesome wisecracking abilities.

Violence & Scariness

Fair amount of comic book-style violence, with villains bent on destroying worlds, permanently dividing kids into two selves, other nefarious stuff. Punching, kicking, bashing, etc., plus creepy monster-like troops, mad science experiments, ray guns, and evil robots. Hanging over the whole tale is the future -- in which Owen dies and fails to rescue Bethany, because his robotic heart breaks down from too much time travel -- as Owen and friends try desperately for a different outcome.


Occasional references to butts, behinds, etc. Insults like "idiotic fool," "jerk."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the hefty Worlds Apart concludes James Riley's crazily imaginative Story Thieves series involving the "real" world, the fictional world, and the bad things that happen when the two are on the outs. As earlier in the series, there's a lot of slapstick comic book violence, from the destruction of entire civilizations to bashing people with assorted weapons or hacking off instantly regrowing limbs. Tween characters have crushes and relationship misunderstandings with other tweens. As you might suspect from the follow-up to a Pick the Plot book, things don't necessarily make a lot of sense here. But amid the looniness and random appearances of past characters, there's a lot of positive messaging about friendship, family, courage, creative thinking, and the right balance between practicality and the imagination.

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What's the story?

Things were already looking pretty bad at the end of Book 4, when arch-villain Nobody finally succeeded in tearing the real and fictional WORLDS APART -- in the process splitting half-real, half-fictional Bethany in two. At first, the two Bethanys are gleeful at losing their other halves, but things start going off the rails fast. Meanwhile, Owen's fictional, world-hopping pal Kara Dox seeks him out with an urgent message: Unless he can get the two worlds back together, he's doomed to an early death. Oh, and at least one world will be destroyed also. Could things possibly get worse? Apparently, and often. Nearly all characters from past adventures make at least a cameo appearance, often ill-timed, as the cosmic showdown with Nobody looms.

Is it any good?

If you've gotten this far in James Riley's wacky adventure series, you'll be right at home with the weird plot twists, random character appearances, shape-shifting, and tween angst. In Worlds Apart, tween heroes Owen and Bethany, along with their fictional-hero friends, are appealing and relatable as they try to do the right thing, save their worlds, and have more cool adventures.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the roles fiction and nonfiction play in Worlds Apart. Do you prefer to learn about facts or use your imagination? Or maybe both?

  • How would you feel if suddenly there was no fiction?

  • Have you ever been in a crisis when you really wished you could just yell "Chapter!" and get a fresh start? How might a reset make things better -- or worse?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and adventure

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