Reading Level: Young Adult
Size: 240 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: ARC through Amazon Vine
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
I got a copy of this to review through the Amazon Vine program. I have read some books by Block before and she’s been kind of hit or miss for me. I did really enjoy this book. It was beautifully written and very dreamlike with excellent imagery.
This book follows Pen in the wake of a post-apocalyptic disaster. As she journeys to find her family she runs into other unlikely characters and realizes her journey through this wasteland is mirroring the story of Homer’s Odyssey.
This book was written in a somewhat dreamlike quality (that is very typical of this author) and made for a beautiful read. There is a theme of finding love in unlikely places and some magical realism too.
Pen is an interesting character. In the beginning, after the disaster she lives in her house alone. She is paralyzed by fear and just hangs out in what is left of her house hoping that some of her family will show up. Then when some guys stop by to loot the house she is faced with a new fear as she hears them talk about how pretty she is and what a prize she would be. Then, through unexpected kindness, Pen is given the chance to flee in a van which she does. From there on out things get pretty strange.
From that point on Pen fights biological experiments (giants), meets intriguingly mysterious characters, and is forced to use both her savvy and wits to survive one bizarre experience after another.
This world is magical and beautiful and completely unbelievable. This is the type of book that I love, but I think some readers will hate. The scenes are dreamlike, the descriptions are wonderfully detailed and sparkling, and you never know what will happen next. Things don’t necessarily make sense, but they are not supposed to….a lot of what happens here is allegory. Some things are very ambiguous as well.
I am not even going to discuss the validity of the reason for the apocalypse that happens in this book. It is silly and magical, beautiful and not at all viable. But as I said that’s not the point here.
Block also doesn’t allow herself to be restricted by any type of societal structure or norm. There are many GLBT relationships, scenes with drug use, and a number of other crazy things. The characters find the disaster of love lost to be more devastating than lack of food or drink, that’s just the kind of book this is.
Overall I really loved this book. I loved the beautiful writing and the way Block finds beauty in disaster. I loved that this followed the Odyssey (loosely) and that there are many quotes from it throughout. I love the imagery as well and how Block makes the scenes and characters come alive. I love that you can never predict what will happen and that things are magical, fantastic, ambiguous, and completely unbelievable.
I would recommend this book to fans of Catherynne Valente’s books; this book has a similar dreamlike and ambiguous quality to it as Valente’s work. I would also recommend to fans of Block’s other novels. This is a beautiful read.