Disclaimer: I received a free electronic version of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.
This is one of those speculative fiction books whose actually genre is hard to pin down. Though the medical issues lend a realistic air to the story, the adventure Adam embarks on feels more like science-fantasy than traditional science-fiction. At times, I even considered whether I’d misinterpreted the back cover description and that I was actually enjoying magical realism instead. But when one of the major story point of views is an unreliable narrator due to his traumatic brain injury (TBI), you’re forced to sit back and enjoy the epic ride rather than analyzing the story’s structural supports.
Are the Star Voice/alien/journey through outer (and inner) space real, then? It doesn’t matter. The author’s stunning use of imagery brings both the fantastical space scenes and the harsh reality of the hospital to life. At times, however, some lovely turns of phrase feel more like authorial insertion than the realistic point of view of a 13-year-old boy, even an exceptionally smart and nerdy one.
On occasion, the more other-worldly scenes got oddly meta when the aliens refer specifically to Adam’s TBI. It came close to pulling me out of the story when I was no longer sure whether the “imagination” conceit was literal rather than metaphorical. But the action and pace always dragged me back in right away.
The scenes with Adam’s mother Camille should have seemed boring and dull in comparison to Adam’s journey. On the contrary, her character arc and voice were just as engrossing. The ending to both character’s journeys tied up neatly, but still packed a satisfying emotional wallop.