I wrestled a bit with whether or not I should post this review on the YALSA blog. We spoke at our blogger training last month about how few book posts there have been (the number has increased by leaps and bounds since Anaheim), which is a little silly for a library services blog. Ultimately, though, I decided to write there about “adult” titles in the YA section, and leave the review for here.
Short version: this is a fantastic book.
I should admit first to being a bit skeptical when I read the back jacket. (This is actually something I rarely do. I like to dig into a book totally blind, unless it’s a series or something. With most of the Best Books I’ve had no idea of the storyline, which I enjoy. I think in this case I decided to read the back just because my copy is so ridiculously designed. It’s an insane hot pink cover, with The Gone-Away World in, like, brown, interspersed with Nick Hark-Away (his name isn’t actually hyphenated) in neon green. It’s actually kind of hard to look at.
Anyway, the reason for my skepticism:
This wildly entertaining debut novel introduces a bold new voice that combines antic humor (think Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut) with a stunning futuristic vision (a la A Clockwork Orange and 1984, with a little Mad Max thrown in) to give us the incredible tale of the Go-Away War and the bandits, monsters and nightmares it left in its wake.
I read that and was all, huh. Vonnegut, eh? I hold him as somewhat sacred, and “antic humor” wouldn’t necessarily be the first phrase to come to mind to describe any of his work. Which isn’t to say that it’s not funny, just that things like “brilliant” and “incredibly poignant” might be quicker out of my mouth.
Anyway, I started agreeing with the Heller comparison in pretty short order, and a bit further in I found myself grudgingly admitting to the Vonnegut as well. There are a handful of characters who could have come straight from the pages of a Vonnegut story. A line in particular struck me, but I don’t really want to reveal it here because it comes as such a delicious surprise toward the end of the book.
I find I have a pretty hard time with book reviews, because I don’t want to include spoilers and I want other readers to be able to stumble blindly into a book the way I did. (If that’s what they want, anyway; if they don’t, I’m sure there are more detailed reviews to be found.) The things you should know about The Gone-Away World are that it’s a very engrossing read, that the Big Thing That Happens might be predictable (I predicted it, which isn’t unheard of, but also isn’t something I necessarily can do all the time), that you should probably be okay with sci-fi and fantasy, and that it is an incredibly moving, touching story. I was near tears at one point.
Anywho. Read the damn book! It’s forthcoming (I got my copy at ALA) but I don’t know the release date, so you’ll just have to stay tuned (or make friends with someone who was in Anaheim–sorry, my copy’s already spoken for).