Thursday, March 7, 2013

Teen/YA Review: The Dark Side of Nowhere

We are big fans of Neal Schusterman’s novels here at our house. My husband, son, and I all loved the Everlost trilogy and Unwind and its sequel (which I still need to read). So, I couldn’t wait to read a new reprint of one of his older novels, The Dark Side of Nowhere. While the plot is wholly unique, it has that signature Schusterman fast pace, creativity, and suspense.

This story is full of surprises, so I won’t tell you too much about the plot – part of the fun is seeing it unfold. Fourteen-year old Jason lives in a small town somewhere in the center of the US – basically, the middle of nowhere. Jason has a good life with his parents and friends, but mostly, he is just bored. He feels like nothing exciting ever happens in his pathetic town:

“If God threw a dart at the world and it happened to strike Billington, completely obliterating it, no would notice and no one would care. In fact, I often thought it would be the best thing that could happen to this place. Smack in the middle of the state, Billington is on a highway that couldn’t be straighter if you drew it with a ruler, and whenever I heard people talk about going nowhere fast, I figured they were headed here, although I couldn’t see what the hurry would be. We’ve got your typical fast-food places, an uninspired mall, and way too many satellite dishes – because in a place like this, what else is there to do but watch five hundred channels of TV? If boredom was a living, breathing thing, then its less interesting cousin would be Billington.”

You get the picture. So, Jason’s boring life continues until one of his best friends dies from appendicitis, and his school’s eccentric janitor gives him a strange gift. From there, things just get weirder and weirder, as Jason begins to realize that very strange things are going on in his boring little town – things that may have never happened anywhere else on earth.

It’s a fun, fast adventure with a lot of warmth and heart at its core. Schusterman’s wild imagination is in full swing here. He has also created a likable and unlikely hero in Jason; I tore through this novel in just a few days, hoping things would turn out OK for him in the end. You'll have to read it to find out for yourself!

230 pages, Simon & Schuster

(This book is officially recommended for teens, but I think older middle-grade readers will enjoy it, too.)


No comments: