by Libba Bray
First sentence: “The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World.”
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I think this is one of those books that if you don’t read it at exactly the right time — whenever that is for you — it will mostly likely fall flat. But, if you catch it right, like I did this week, then it will soar. Touching at spots, wild, weird, and very hilarious, it will make you want to shout from the rooftops that this is the best. book. ever.
For those of you that don’t know, the plot is simply this: our hero, Cameron, is a loser and a stoner and basically aimlessly trying not to connect with any other human being. His parents are disconnected, his twin sister hates him. He goes along like this until suddenly — though it takes him a while to realize it — he gets Creutzfeldt-Jakob variant BSE, or in other words: mad cow disease. That’s when the weird stuff begins to happen. Angels, fire demons, the Wizard of Reckoning: throughout the rest of the book, Bray throws all sorts of wild, weird and wonderful things at us, asking us to question what is real.
Cameron is sent on a quest — and I admit that if I hadn’t had seen The Lightning Thief recently, I might have missed this — one that is both epic and legendary. It’s playing right into the whole Greek mythos: young man sent on a quest for x (in this case, to save the world and heal himself), and on those adventures, he is tried, tested and eventually found worthy. I like to think Bray knew this going in — though I think she was aiming more for Norse mythology than Greek; by the way, Balder, the kick-butt yard gnome was, hands down, my favorite character — and used it to her advantage. It sounds like a silly plot, but Bray’s writing — foul though it is — keeps you turning pages. What’s going to happen next? It’s so over the top, so off the wall, it makes you want to know: what’s the next thing Bray’s going to throw at Cameron?
And she keeps you guessing, wondering, all the way up through the very end: was it real? Did it happen? What the heck was that?