Friday, November 11, 2011

Arty -- No Passengers Beyond This Point by Gennifer Choldenko

You can't ask for more radically different siblings than the Tompkins kids. India, 14-year-old big sister, is your typical teen. Hates her mom, loves her friend, wishes she didn't have siblings. Finn is the family worrier - everything bad that can happen, he can imagine it. The baby of the family, Mouse, is a six-year-old genius kid with endless questions and an imaginary friend named Bing.

Then their single mom (their dad died before Mouse was born) has to sell their house, and the three siblings are shipped off to Colorado to stay with their uncle, while Mom stays to finish school so she can get a job. The plane has a little trouble on the way to Colorado, but they get there eventually... don't they?

Maybe not. Where they land certainly isn't the Colorado they know. Finn, India, and Mouse are going to have to work together if they want to make it out together. The question is, do they really want to make it out together?

Gennifer Choldenko is, for me, the Al Capone Does My Shirts/Shines My Shoes lady. Those are some great books. Like those, most of her other books are realistic fiction - school fiction, I guess. So No Passengers is something of a departure for her.

And it shows. The characters, as are typical of her writing, are awesome. I love Finn (though he could be exchanged easily for Al Capone's Moose Flanagan), and Mouse is actually adorable. I usually can't stand little kid geniuses, but she was so cute - not over-the-top smart or ridiculously mature, just very intelligent. I even appreciated India sometimes, though mostly I just wanted to hit her in the head.

What sunk No Passengers was the setting. You get the sense that there's something otherworldly to this city, Falling Bird, but you're not really sure what it looks like. There are lots of feathers and amazing technology and tunnels everywhere, but the details and mechanics aren't there. Of course, this is a middle-school-aged book, so I wasn't expecting Great Expectations, but some more description would have benefited.

Some of the action about three-fourths of the way through got rushed, too. That's where more description really would have helped out the story, because without a clear picture of how Falling Bird was constructed, what was going on felt disjointed and hazy.

BUT. Before you start thinking, Hmmm, I'd better just skip this one, let me tell you about the last two chapters.

You want closure, but not gooey happy full-circle-ness? You want answers but nothing spelled out in billboard letters? Gennifer Choldenko has it down. Ask Persy - I just screamed at her that I finally understand what several key plot points meant in the story. And I read that book over a week ago. Choldenko's that crafty. (I guess you could argue for confusing writing, but I really don't think that's the case. It's that she doesn't spoonfeed you. You shouldn't need everything handed over on a silver platter.)

So it's not a perfect book, but it's a fun one. It's an engaging one. It's a clever one. And it's an oddly sobering one in the end. And I'll definitely be giving it another read after a while, so I can pick up other things that I didn't the first time around. So, basically? Read it.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm. Sounds interesting. I'll have to check it out sometime. ;) Great review!