Tuesday, November 01, 2011

No Passengers A Fun, Reality-Twisting Ride

(Image from Indiebound)

Things haven't been easy around the Tompkins household. Twelve-year-old Finn has definitely felt the tension as his widowed mother tries to make ends meet on her school teacher's salary. He doesn't realize how desperate the situation really is, though, until his mom makes a shocking announcement: The bank is taking the family's house and they're moving to Colorado to live with an uncle. Tomorrow. Without their mother, who can't risk losing a recommendation from her boss by quitting her job halfway through the school year. Finn's stunned by the news, his 14-year-old sister, India, is outraged, and who knows what Mouse, their 6-year-old genius of a little sister might be thinking? Mouse might be "like a mutant child from the nature channel" (13), but Finn's worried about how she's dealing with the sudden move. That's his job - family worrier.

An already hopeless situation takes a turn for the worse when the kids' plane makes a weird detour. One glance at the taxi waiting to whisk them away from the airport - it's pink with white feathery wings - tells Finn they're not in Denver. Where they are is Falling Bird, a strange in-between world unlike any place they've ever been before. They're welcomed into the city like celebrities, showered with lavish gifts, and encouraged to stay forever. Finn's never been so admired. Falling Bird is the perfect home ... until it starts feeling like a prison. The longer Finn stays in this odd, alternative universe, the more he's convinced he needs to leave. The only problem is convincing his sisters. And escaping. And finding his way home, wherever that is. Impossible? Probably, but Finn has to try. Or risk losing everything he holds dear.

No Passengers Beyond This Point, a new middle-grade novel by Gennifer Choldenko, takes readers for a nail-biting, reality-twisting, thought-provoking ride that proves no matter how harsh it may be, there are things in our world worth fighting for. The characters made me laugh, the story made me think, and Finn's determination to save his family made me cheer. Maybe I didn't like this one quite as much as Choldenko's Al Capone books (She's working on the third one, by the way), but I still enjoyed the story. And I'm always impressed when an author can get her point across in a creative, understated way. Choldenko does that. Just one of the many reasons why I love her. Even though it isn't my favorite of Choldenko's books, I still recommend No Passengers Beyond This Point to anyone with a hankering for a little out-of-this world adventure. It won't disappoint.

(Readalikes: The story reminded me a little of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, Coraline by Neil Gaiman, Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, and Everlost by Neal Shusterman; the relationship between Finn and Mouse reminded me of that between Moose and Natalie from Choldenko's Alcatraz series [Al Capone Does My Shirts; Al Capone Shines My Shoes])

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for some intense action scenes

To the FTC, with love: I bought No Passengers Beyond This Point at a school book fair with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.

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