Snowflake, AZ by Marcus Sedgwick

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Snowflake, AZ by Marcus Sedgwick

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Stephen Leach
Reviewed by Stephen Leach
Summary: Intensely thought-provoking with much to say, this novel about a town of ill people is one you'll have to get to love.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 384 Date: September 2019
Publisher: Zephyr
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1788542340

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This is a deep, interesting read unlike any book I've read in quite some time. The novel's story follows a young man named Ash in the process of joining a community of sick people in the curiously named town of Snowflake, Arizona. These people are sick, but it's not a sickness you've heard of. Instead, they're environmentally ill – affected by household chemicals and fabrics, pesticides, static electricity, and radiation – and their only cure is to stay in the town away from the real world. Though it's about a real place, the people in it are fictional. It really is a place apart, quite literally cut off from the outside world – people are even required to decontaminate themselves thoroughly before becoming fully integrated.

The various effects of what it means to live in such a community are cleverly realised. This is something that isn't talked about enough – people rarely consider the practicalities of a long-term illness, and the effect it has on a person's mindset, until and unless they've experienced it first-hand.

Snowflake, AZ is quite distinctively written in a straightforward but rather bare style, and I have to confess I wasn't keen on it. Unfortunately this really hampered my enjoyment of the novel – it was so sparse, I almost felt that it was dry. I also found many of the characters quite hard to visualise and connect to, which made it difficult for me to really get into the story. Unfortunately, once or twice throughout the story I found myself wondering if it could have been told better by someone else. However, it's worth it to get to the end; the sense of closure at the end of the story is, at least, strongly satisfying, and I was glad I persevered.

I've seen several reviewers express the opinion that this book is genius – that might well be the case. I'm certainly not so arrogant as to state that because I didn't enjoy reading a book, there's no value in it (and, let's be honest, no-one likes to think that they weren't smart enough to appreciate something clever). But while I felt this book touched on a lot of interesting stuff, it just wasn't interesting enough for me to enthusiastically say I enjoyed reading it. However, I'd like to read something else of Marcus Sedgwick's to see if we simply got off on the wrong foot. With such high praise for his other novels, I'm hoping I'll like the next one I read. I'm thinking of starting with Revolver, in fact, which the Bookbag loved.

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