Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2015
What’s the point of going to school when every day there’s a bomb threat and it becomes normal to hold class under the maple tree or the black walnut? What’s the point of going on vacation when your parents only want to visit the sites of school shootings? In this surreal novel, four high school students struggle with common troubles: school pressures, past trauma, grief. Each student reacts to their troubles in a different way: lying, wearing a lab coat everywhere, building an invisible helicopter, turning inside out. But none of these methods solve the problem. It’ll take a very different approach to help these four students find solutions to their problems.
I’ll say up front, I’m not a fan of surrealist fiction. I’m a practical person at heart, and at first the bizarre aspects of this book left me cold. Nevertheless, I kept reading and surprised myself by growing quite fond of the characters. I found myself increasingly invested in the story as I read on. I came to appreciate, too, how the realistic aspects of the story, the high-stakes testing, rape and shaming, grief, all played into the whole tale.
Not everyone will like this book, but I imagine that the right readers will find it and love it. Reading it provides an interesting impetus to think about how each of us deal with our emotions and worries. It can help us think about what we can do to change the world or community we live in. The message here is hopeful, too, for in facing their problems, the characters began to find a way through their fears.
I read this book as a digital advance reader copy courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and NetGalley.