Feiwel and Friends (an imprint of Macmillan), 304 pages
US Release Date: September 18, 2012
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher, for review. Thank you!
Radley just wants to get home to her parents in Vermont. While she was volunteering abroad, the American People's Party took power; the new president was assassinated; and the government cracked down on citizens. Travel restrictions are worse than ever, and when her plane finally lands in New Hampshire, Radley’s parents aren’t there.
Exhausted; her phone dead; her credit cards worthless: Radley starts walking.
I expect to chafe with jealousy.
But if there is any, it's unable to take root.
How remarkably fast our friendships shift and form and reform.
This book is overwhelmingly, heartbreakingly, heavily sad.
Maybe it was simply the mood I was in while reading it, but even though there is probably an equal amount of hope (fulfilled and unfulfilled) within these pages, I was just overwhelmed by a sense of loss and being lost. That's an emotion I hold with me through a lot of my real life, and I was not happy to have it in my reading. I don't mind it when it's there - it is a part of life and I welcome it as a real part of stories - but for it to be so present, all the time? It was a little tough.
But at the same time, there's a strange sort of comfort in the sadness of this novel. It is supposed to be sad. This world is terrifying and falling apart and there are too many questions without even the thought of answers. Sad is how we are supposed to feel when we know about Radley and her story. If it were anything else, this book would be terrible. The sadness makes a lot of sense, and you appreciate it that way.
The world is crumbling, and its fascinating in a really terrible way. I couldn't look away, kind of like that cliche of a bad car crash: it's so horrible and you just can't not look. But truthfully, it really wasn't developed enough. I craved to understand Radley's world a little more. I know of destruction and oppression and the APP ruining the US - but there are so many holes. While I feel like it might have been intentional to not detail more of the world, I didn't have enough to connect with. I wanted more, and I was so curious for more. It left me feeling very unfulfilled in that sense.
I did really enjoy when Radley and Celia were on their own at the abandoned schoolhouse in Canada, but I probably enjoyed it for all he wrong reasons haha. It was a great adventure and felt very Walden-esque to me. I know it was supposed to be a hideout, just a camp until they could resume their life, but I still had a ton of fun going through that part of their lives. I really enjoyed Jerry Lee, the dog, because he was a great element of balance to Celia and her story.
Even though I've complained clearly about the sadness of the story, please don't think that's all there is to this - there actually is hope in this book, and a lot of it. Radley is hopeful about her parents, she is hopeful about survival and returning to the US. Celia is hopeful of a life leaving behind all that was wrong. The mostly-anonymous woman who helps them in Canada was a beacon of hope, and I loved every time she would pop into the story. There are true lifelines in this, and even though my heart was heavy, it was also happy to know that was there.
If I were to really, deeply analyse this book, I would say it is actually a very political stance on the US and the world in general. There are too many things too close to the real world for me to consider otherwise. Maybe I'm reading too far into things, or being oversensitive, but I avoid world-issues in my reading. It's so present in my real life that I don't like it to be in the things I choose to let in, and I found it slightly offputting. However, how it is written into the story is done really, really well, and I didn't ever really find myself offended by any of it. I don't know if that's because it's written fantastically or if maybe I agree with some of the things I could find between the lines - but nonetheless, even if I don't necessarily want it there, I appreciate it and how it's done.
The overall story is a bit bland to me. I didn't find much in the photos - some were beautiful, but most didn't make an impression on me or really enhance my reading. I really did want more to the plot, and when Radley does finally go back home...it wasn't very satisfying for me. I don't know what I wanted her to come back to, but what she does...it makes sense. It does. I don't think it could have been written any other way. But I just can't get on board with it, because it's just so sad. I want to hug Radley, and rock her and tell her she'll be ok. And even though she is ok, there's a heaviness that just makes me feel otherwise.
But the ending. I'm not sure I've ever read an ending that is the perfect fitting for the novel. It is shrouded in sadness still and filled with the hope I insist to be there, but with a fantastic threading of love and friendship and rebuilding. There is a continuation off the page, and though I don't know it for certain, what I think it to be is absolutely perfect, too.
3.5 Stars / 5