100 Sideways Miles - Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith's Grasshopper Jungle (no, I haven't mis-labelled this post!) is insane. It's weird. It's bizarre. It's complex. It's totally trippy. I think Andrew Smith has one of the most disturbing brains of anyone I know. And on a totally different note, 100 Sideways Miles (see, I told you I was writing about the right book!) is completely different from anything related to Grasshopper Jungle. Or even The Marbury Lens and Passenger. In many ways, this particular novel hearkens back to the style of In the Path of Falling Objects and Ghost Medicine (i.e. it doesn't have alien insects and doesn't take place in a bizarro world of death and destruction.)

100 Sideways Miles is a beautifully crafted novel. We open on Finn Easton, an epileptic young man who sometimes wonders if he's real or just a character in his father's bestselling novel, The Lazarus Door. His best friend Cade is pretty much insane, and the beautiful Julia Bishop is only a temporary resident of the valley in which the boys live. Finn is also rather unique, in that he sees the world, not through time, but through the movement of planet earth through space: he sees the passage of time in sideways miles.

This novel, told in three parts, is compelling, even while it meanders forward along a rather unconventional route. The narrative zig zags between the past and the present, revealing the history of the San Francisquito Canyon while also exploring Finn's experiences during and after his many epileptic episodes. The text is very much based on character development, but the third part of the story explodes with even more characterization and action, moving Cade, Julia, and especially Finn into an entirely new future.

It's really hard to write this review since the book won't be out for some time, but I just know that this book will find a dedicated and enthusiastic readership, which it very much deserves. Andrew Smith knows how to write characters, and this book is definitely no exception. Though the overall plot is not exactly action-packed at first, there is a lot of internal struggle and interpersonal relationship development that is satisfying and compelling. I love Finn and Julia, and even though Cade pisses me off from the first page, his friendship with Finn is one that will keep readers captivated, and I definitely appreciate the core of his personality.

And I definitely need to give a shout-out to the fabulous designer of this cover, Lucy Ruth Cummins, designer of many incredible novel covers, including Andrew Smith's Winger, and Kenneth Oppel's Viktor Frankenstein novels, This Dark Endeavour and Such Wicked Intent (but I'm getting off topic.) I declare this book...

Highly Recommended

(Note: This review is from an Advanced Reading Copy - Out September 2014)

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