By Blythe Woolston
Published 2013 by Candlewick Press
Valkyrie knows that she can only trust her da and her big brother - everyone else is in league with them. They killed her mother after all. Now that her da's gone, Valkyrie knows she must do something. And that's why she ends up with this bomb strapped to her chest.
I picked this one up because I'd heard talk of it as a Printz contender. Everyone I'd seen talk about it had good things to say, so I was definitely intrigued. It is a short book - less than 200 pages - but there is a lot here. In fact, I'm not entirely sure I can do a decent review having only read it once.
So, that's my first point in this review: read this book. And read it more than once. There are so many layers and pieces in this book that you're sure to miss something with just one reading. I've already admitted that I haven't done a second reading, so, I suppose, take this review with a grain of salt.
This is an intense and dark novel. It will be a hard one for many people to read. It's also a brilliant novel and should be widely read - I think it's a good thing to read challenging books. This is also a book that feels very relevant and topical, without being didactic or boring. This book lets readers get inside the mind of someone raised in a very particular way, someone who has been taught to view the world, society, and the government through a very particular lens. It's fascinating and horrifying. And you can't put it down.
This book is incredibly well-written and, once again, I find myself disappointed that I hadn't read anything by Woolston before this. She's been on my radar since her first novel was a Morris finalist but I hadn't picked anything up yet. This was obviously a mistake on my part. Her writing is polished and taut. She's created a terrifying atmosphere and sense of suspense here. Everything works together so well. The alternating narratives - between past and present - work incredibly well drawing out the story. Just absolutely stunning writing and construction.
Valley is an incredibly interesting character as well. She will make people question themselves. How much of what I know/believe is a product of what I've been taught? Am I truly thinking for myself? Making my own decisions? It's uncomfortable and yet difficult to resist.
This book is a stunner, one of the best I read last year. I highly recommend it.