No Passengers Beyond This Point by Gennifer Choldenko
|No Passengers Beyond This Point by Gennifer Choldenko|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Lovely fantasy story in which a family mends itself after a crisis. The setting may be surreal, but the kernels of truth that Choldenko's fans love her for are still central. Recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: May 2011|
|External links: Author's website|
India is fourteen and, like many teenagers, doesn't see much outside her own narrow sphere of interest. She's spiky and defensive and reacts to any setbacks with anger and aggression, usually turned against her family. But inside, like many teenagers, she's rather lonely and lost. Finn is twelve and not as good at basketball as he'd like. He's not as popular as he'd like either. But he is honest and loyal, and he longs for a chance to prove it. Mouse is six and a bit of an oddity. She has an imaginary friend and a brain the size of a planet. This doesn't always make her easy to get along with.
So the siblings are a slightly ragtag group but they've always rubbed along reasonably. Until finances for their single mother got tighter and tighter. And now their home has been repossessed and they are being packed off to Colorado to stay with an uncle they barely know. And if that weren't bad enough, they can't take their dog and their mother won't be joining them for months...
This book marks a change for Gennifer Choldenko. She usually writes kitchen sink dramas with a touch of whimsy a la Louis Sachar - and very good at them she is too. She has a wonderfully light touch and a warmth about her wisdom, but she too wicked a sense of humour to ever feel twee. No Passengers Beyond This Point begins much in this vein - a normal family is thrown into a crisis situation and its children are asked to come to terms with it and do a little bit of growing up.
But as soon as India, Midge and Mouse board the plane to Colorado, things take a novel twist. Within a few pages, they are in the alternate world of Falling Bird, and driving down the road in a pink taxi covered in feathers. They're each ushered into their ideal home with a new mother that looks like the old one but is just so much more understanding, tolerant, fun, and - well - better. The question is whether or not they each love one another enough to have the wisdom to distinguish the real from the fantastical and the worthwhile from the superficial. Because if they don't, they'll never get home. Each child has its own hurdles to overcome.
I loved this story. Choldenko moves from realistic to fantasy fiction with confidence and ease but her warm and witty style is completely recognisable. I like fiction that features a passage between worlds and Falling Bird is a super alternate reality - pretty on the surface but you don't need to scratch too deeply to see how disturbing it is underneath. The children are all sympathetic in different ways and by the time the final chapters approached, I was genuinely rooting for all of them, even the rather self-obsessed and selfish India. I would never spoil things for you, but I will see the book has an absolute cracker of an ending. I ran out of breath!
Yes, Gennifer Choldenko is as good at fantasy as she is at kitchen sink dramas. Hooray!
My thanks to the good people at Bloomsbury for sending the book.
If they like the look of No Passengers Beyond This Point, I think they might also like the slightly more scary Organ Music by Margaret Mahy and Coraline by Neil Gaiman. For a story that also depicts growing up as a journey from the centre of the world to just a part of it, I think they'd enjoy Castlecliff by Elizabeth Pulford.
You can read more book reviews or buy No Passengers Beyond This Point by Gennifer Choldenko at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy No Passengers Beyond This Point by Gennifer Choldenko at Amazon.com.
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