I read this book about 8 years ago, before they renovated our library. It is written by an Asian author (Japanese I think), and is heavily influenced by Asian cultures.

The main character's parents are divorced; the father cheated on the mother because she is sick and dying. The main character is upset and wants to cure his mother so much that he makes a wish and is given the opportunity to grant his wish by questing through an alternate world and gathering magical stones. The catch is that he is competing against another character who also has a wish, but only one wish can be granted.

I remember that the only way to enter the fictional country was to go up stairs that lead to nothing (the main character uses a stairway at a construction site), and one of the companions he meets along the way is a lizard person.

Physically, I remember the book being really large and having a teal cover with some cartoonish art of the main character and his companions.

  • Other than being by an Asian author, this would sound exactly like The Talisman by King and Straub. – Radhil Jun 14 '17 at 10:42

You are looking for Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe.

The novel was rereleased in 2006 matching the release of its anime adaption. This fits your "eight years ago". Miyuki Miyabe is a japanese author, as you remember.

The plot points that match your memories:

Wataru, the protagonist of Brave Story, witnesses his fathers cheating and the subsequent divorce. He learns about the existence of another world named Vision, where one can ask the Goddess of Destiny to change ones fate.

After his mother attempts suicide, Wataru wants to cure his mother and reunite his family, so he travels to Vision via the stairs within an empty and unfinished building. He is tasked with gathering five gemstones.

One friend he makes in Vision is a human-sized lizard. Not long after his arrival in Vision he finds out, that his schoolmate Mitsuru is also in Vision, competing with him for the gemstones.

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