BookPage Teen Top Pick, October 2015
Every once in a while a book comes along that inspires readers to rethink everything they thought they knew about how fiction works. Given author A.S. King’s talent for writing boundary-pushing YA lit, it’s no surprise that her latest offering does exactly that.
Gustav is building a red helicopter that the biology-obsessed Stanzi—which isn’t her real name—can only see on Tuesdays. China, a poet, has turned herself inside out. Lansdale’s hair grows every time she tells a lie, which is often. All four teens, hiding their pain behind elaborate defense mechanisms, are desperate to escape a life in which parents tour the sites of school shootings, abusers walk free and daily bomb threats disrupt their classes . . . especially as the time for high-stakes testing looms. And all the while, a strange man who lurks in a bush sells letters (like A, B, C, not the kind with stamps) in return for kisses and other favors.
When Gustav’s helicopter is finished, he and Stanzi fly it to the haunting Place of Arrivals—where, in theory, there are no departures. But one resident has already departed, and another hopes to be next.
References to cultural icons such as “M*A*S*H,” Amadeus and “Sesame Street” (at least in my interpretation of the letter-selling man) give characters a language to express the inexpressible. Surreal and unsettling but ultimately redemptive, this piece of magical realism—if that indeed is what it is—will speak to fans of Francesca Lia Block and anyone seeking a thoroughly postmodern read.
Jill Ratzan matches readers with books in a small library in southeastern Pennsylvania.