Genre: Realistic Fiction
Description: Valkyrie White is 15 years old. She believes the government killed her family. Ever since she was a young child and Mabby (her mom) died while out tending the family garden, her father has warned her and her older brother, Bo, to be wary of the black helicopters (one was in the air when Mabby died) and to avoid Those People at all costs. Recently, her and Bo returned to their home and found the place burned to the ground and their father presumably dead. With no one to help them, Val and Bo set out to deliver their father’s message to the outside world and it won’t be a happy one.
Opinion: This is a very short book but a powerfully disturbing one. Its slimness should not let readers think it is an easy read. The story takes place in very short chapters that alternate between different periods of time. Val is a complex character. Her whole development has been stunted. Thus, the voice of the novel is very unique—at times Val comes across as immature and childish and at others someone to be scared of. Readers will slowly begin to piece the story of Val’s life together from the little vignettes. Somehow her family went to live off the land in a remote mountainous area of Montana. There her father, one of those odd radicals who would easily be in a cult, raised his children to fear and distrust the outside world, especially after their mother dies. We learn that he has passed his beliefs on to his children and Val, in particular, was for the past few years of her life his “secret” weapon and kept hidden away until he was ready to use her. We learn that he probably caused his own death because he clearly was making bombs for “clients” and must have accidentally blown their house up. With nowhere to go, they make their way to an acquaintance of their fathers who is psychically and emotionally abusive and forces Bo to traffic children into Canada and Val to “pay their rent” with her body. When they run away from him to another set of their father’s acquaintances Val finally finds purpose to her life—she is going to go to the world of Those People with a massive bomb strapped to her chest. Unfortunately, her driver makes a pit stop and explodes their car causing their whole plan to derail. Val walks to a nearby school and meeting a young boy gets a ride with his older brother. Soon these two outsiders are trapped with an emotionally disturbed girl who plans on suicide bombing something to get attention. Val, while childish and bitchy at different times, is a sympathetic character. She is clearly a product of her environment—raised to believe the crazy beliefs of her father. Her upbringing and what happens to her are highly disturbing. This is definitely for older readers because, while it is clear that Val’s life sucks, the rape scene is clearly described and you kind of know it’s going to happen but it is still a complete shock. This book would be an excellent choice for a mature book discussion among older teens. I can’t wait for my teens to read the galley and see what they think.