When a bizarre plague strikes the world, the stakes for one boy could not be more personal in this debut coming-of-age novel from a Canadian author.
It starts the summer Ben is 11; sudden dark clouds appear, and millions of random adults turn to obsidian glass. As panic and chaos spread, passionate birder Ben worries mostly for his own family, about the town bullies, and over the inexplicably missing local sparrows. But after a compelling, mysterious Voice on the radio enlists the world into a radical response, Ben must decide where his loyalties belong. His first-person narration authentically conveys the painful confusion of a sensitive child coping with adult tragedies. Removing access to computers and cellphones turns his small rural home into an oddly old-fashioned Everytown, albeit one with little scope for women—Ben’s mentally fragile mother is the only notable female character. A Stranger Things–like tone effectively conveys the creeping dread of a hapless microcosm trapped within a supernatural end of days. Unfortunately, despite the intimate family drama and devastating losses, there is a frustrating lack of resolution: What really caused the “glassification”? Who was the Voice? What did the birds have to do with it? Along with the more compassionate but much less innocent Ben, readers learn only that “life simply went on.” Characters are default white.
An interesting but ultimately unsatisfying experiment from a writer worth watching. (Horror. 8-12)