Started: October 19
Finished: October 22
Genre/*Category: Science Fiction
Published: October 2015
Themes: Coming of Age, Overcoming, Relationships
Rating: 3+ Stars
Age/Interest Range: 8th grade and up
I loved A Monster Calls, so I thought I’d try another Patrick Ness book. I’m not going to sugarcoat this: This book was a little confusing at the beginning. Now, I’m not saying I didn’t like it. I had faith in Patrick Ness, and so I pushed through my confusion (which, by the way, worked itself out). But I’m not sure a struggling reader would do that. This book may be for a stronger reader who loves a mashup of reality and science fiction.
The setting is current, however, the world has been “taken over a few times” by vampires, soul-eating ghosts, and the undead. THIS KIND OF INFORMATION is just thrown into the text in an uber-casual way. At the beginning of each chapter, there is a very brief paragraph that talks about a whole other ordeal going on in the town. This “whole other ordeal” is mysterious and describes things like Messengers, Immortals, a search for a permanent Vessel, etc. Ness is trying to build a second story line via these short intervals, and it IS creative… but if you aren’t the kind of reader who keeps pushing through, even when you aren’t sure what you’re reading – You may just find this weird and hard to comprehend.
The rest of the “regular” part of each chapter follows Mikey. He has a group of friends and they are all seniors at the local high school. Their lives are very similar to normal high school lives, but they have lived through “when the vampires came” (a few years back), and one of Mikey’s friends, Jared, is 1/4 god. Jared is also a huge football player and gay. One of the clicks at school is “the indies.” Indie kids are the hipsters of the day, and have strange names like Satchel and many boys named Fin.
The book starts with one of the many Finns being found dead in the woods.
The night a Finn was found, Mikey and his friends saw a bright blue light glowing from the woods. They report this to the police, who do not take them seriously. The friends know something weird is starting up again (it was vampires last time), but no one of authority will listen to them. The deaths of more indie kids follow, one at a time…
Mikey has a crummy home life. Dad is a drunk and mom is running for public office and doesn’t have much time for mothering. Mikey’s sister, Mel, has suffered from anorexia/bulimia and had to miss an entire year of school as a result of her struggle. Because of this, Mel and Mikey are now in the same grade and hand out with the same group of friends. Mikey suffers from OCD and at the beginning of this book, it’s starting to flare up again. Mikey and Mel’s issues both stem from all the poor parenting…
As Mikey’s group of friends are trying to figure out their last months of school (and having mixed feelings about their unknown futures), they are simultaneously trying to figure out what is behind the killing spree of indie kids. This adventure is laced with the aforementioned beginning-on-the-chapter short spurts of narration of Messengers, Immortals. Portals and Vessels…
I enjoyed this read, but it will not appeal to a variety of readers. I think the title’s story line would have made a better PG-13 movie. Many characters and plot issue just don’t feel right on page.
I recommend this for 8th and up due to the more-than-a-few mentions of casual same-gender sex involving main characters.
Overall Literary Merit: Not low, but not high either… Because of the incredible writing in Ness’s other books, I’m probably being generous here.
Classroom Possibilities: High School Library and Classroom Library worthy.