Sharpe’s debut novel applies a fresh fantasy premise to a classic coming-of-age tale.
London teenagers Ellie, Midge, Scott and Marty have their share of typical adolescent issues, from nagging self-doubt to sudden bouts of anger. But their biggest problem is an unusual one: A mysterious purple cloud has swept across the globe, taking with it every person between the ages of 18 and 65, leaving behind an uncanny aura of goodwill. Interpersonal conflict has come to a halt, London’s hospitals are empty, and the elderly have been cured of their aches and pains. Still, the four main characters are plagued by what Ellie names “the Missing Feeling”; they’re haunted by their absent families and the knowledge that adulthood is coming much quicker than they’d anticipated. The four soon discover that the Purple’s peaceful aftereffects are wearing off, and a group of power-hungry citizens are preparing to take advantage of the destabilized society. Aided by several plucky older guides, the friends set out to ensure the world’s safety, a quest that proves inextricably tied to their own journeys of personal and spiritual growth. These themes could easily become preachy, but with a consistently light touch and a winning penchant for the absurd, Sharpe instead puts forth an earnest, entertaining story with significant emotional weight. It’s not a perfect book—the pacing sometimes falters, the many threads of the narrative occasionally struggle to cohere, and the teenage characters all seem like simple variations on a Nice Kid archetype. But the problems those kids face, and their reactions to them, always feel authentic and relatable, even in the context of a shockingly altered world. Early on, as Midge wishes for someone she can trust, Sharpe writes: “For her, the subject of second persons had long been a prickly one. Reliable second persons rarely swam in the waters of her world.” Sentiments like that will resonate with readers of all ages, and this book’s great strength is its keen insight into the nature of human fear, hope and love.
Clever and affecting in a vividly imagined world.