The Neverending Story (1983)
by Michael Ende
And so it would go on for ever and ever, for any change in the sequence was unthinkable. Only he, Bastian, could do anything about it. And he would have to do something, or else he too would be included in the circle. It seemed to him that this story had been repeated a thousand times, as though there were no before and after and everything had happened at once. Now he realized why the Old Man's hand trembled. The Circle of Eternal Return was an end without an end.
Bastian was unaware of the tears that were running down his cheeks. Close to fainting, he suddenly cried out, "Moon Child, I'm coming!"
In that moment, several things happened at once ...
My friend, Kyle (http://q-uq.blogspot.com/), reminded me of this novel the other day when he mentioned the film version on Facebook. It saddens me to admit that I had totally forgotten about this epic fantasy adventure even though it sits on my "Favorite Literature" bookshelf and remains one of my most treasured reads. To judge this beautiful novel on the rather cheesy children's film, however, does it a disservice. I must admit I enjoy the movie - charming, delightful, and faithful ... though only to the FIRST HALF of the book and, in my opinion, the LESS important of the two halves.
The story concerns the neglected and bullied Bastian Balthazar Bux, who steals a book called The Neverending Story from a local bookseller and hides in his school attic to read it. As he reads the tale of a young warrior's efforts to save his land, Fantastica, from the spread of the Nothing (caused by the "real" world's denial of fantasy), Bastian finds himself drawn further and further into the novel ... literally. Bastian is shocked to discover that he is the human child prophesized to save Fantastica and that he is, in fact, reading his OWN story. So, when he cures the world and the dying Childlike Empress by giving her the name "Moon Child," he is drawn completely into the story.
Unfortunately this is where the movie ends, but it's only HALFWAY through the novel.
The second half of the novel is Bastian's adventure in Fantastica, a world that has disappeared and a world HE must recreate. As he rebuilds the world through wishing, his new friends discover that Bastian is losing his memories of the real world little by little with each wish. Since this is the part of the novel NOT covered in the film, I'll leave off the spoilers and hope that you will find the time to read this wonderful novel.