How good can a novel written by a fake author be? The answer could possibly be very good when that fake author is actually a collaboration between Paul Tremblay and Stephen Graham Jones (thus P.T. Jones) and one of the best publishers in the business, ChiZine Publications, has deemed it worthy of becoming a part of their catalogue. “Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly” is an early entrant in ChiZine’s new imprint aimed at younger readers, ChiTeen, and I was eager to see if the story was as good as I had come to expect from the publisher.
Mary’s life has seemed to have gone off the tracks. After a bout with anxiety attacks that forced her to miss the end of the previous school year, she now faces the prospect of returning to school and trying to fit in again. Even worse, she has not finished the reading that she was assigned over the summer and does not feel ready for the academic challenges that her sophomore year of high school promises. With only two weeks left on summer vacation, one of her Sundays is hijacked by her mandatory attendance at a birthday party for her cousin that is full of her ultra-religious relatives. She is relegated to kiddie pool lifeguard duties when she sees a strange boy climb up a tree. Her life then changes forever when the boy reaches the top of the tree and continues going up as he floats away into the sky.
An epidemic has struck the small town leaving most of the adults sick and the teenagers and children with the ability to fly (or at least float). All of them, that is, except for Mary. She has once again been left out of what everyone else is going through for some reason even though she was the first to believe in the phenomena. She becomes friends with the “floating boy” and is beginning to learn a little about him when her baby brother is kidnapped. Now Mary must lead a desperate rescue party to get her brother back and combat a secret government conspiracy as well as save the town. Nothing could be easier for the girl who is not even special enough to float like everyone else, right?
“Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly” is a very good story that is filled with characters that are easy to relate to and who seemed real in spite of the bizarre circumstances of the story. It is easy to relate to the conflict that rages inside of Mary and the confusion that she must overcome as she tries to hold things together. I also thought that the “floating boy,” who is hard to give a real name to since it changes throughout the story, was a very sympathetic character that I found myself cheering for throughout the tale. Even Mary’s friends seemed to be completely fleshed out and believable teenagers if just a little too stereotypical to be entirely real. Strong characters and strong writing give this sensational story and air of realism that grounds it and allows the reader to quickly and completely fall into the story.
I am a fan of young adult fiction and I was happy to see that ChiZine was starting an imprint for that purpose. With the quality of fiction that ChiZine puts out for adults, I thought it would be great to see the same caliber of works for younger readers. “Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly” is the first book that was originally published under the ChiTeen imprint and it more than lives up to the ChiZine standard. This book takes on a strange premise and turns it into something meaningful and entertaining as well as easy to read. The themes in the story are ones that should be appealing to a younger reader but it is still intelligent enough to appeal to adults. If this is what we have to look forward to from the ChiTeen imprint, then it looks like there will be a wealth of quality young adult fiction from the publisher in the future.
I would like to thank ChiTeen and NetGalley for this advance review copy. “Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly” is scheduled to be released by ChiTeen in October.