I just finished reading the ARC of IN THE PATH OF FALLING OBJECTS by Andrew Smith (Feiwel and Friends, Fall, 2009). What a tension packed thriller! This story of two boys on a trek to meet up with their father pulled me right in. Jonah, the protagonist, and his younger brother Simon have only ten dollars, a backpack full of dirty clothes, Jonah’s notebook, and a stack of letters from their older brother, Matt, who is serving a tour in Vietnam. And these guys are in the middle of the desert. Alone. On foot. With no food. See what I mean?
I gasped as I read the first scene, horrified but madly turning pages, thrown head first into the boys’ situation. Yes, I was hooked. Not long after this POW, the boys accept a ride with two men and a girl. The driver is the antagonist. The other man is metal, which, for me, added an awesome and humorous twist. The girl, an alluring and troubled character, is desperate. Oh, is this poor thing desperate. But it was the antagonist, Mitch, who really made me get up and turn a few more lights on in the room. Okay, yes, I also checked the locks on the doors. I was home alone. You’d do the same, believe me. This Mitch is seriously scary. Passing him in the middle of Times Square would make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, so imagine catching a ride with him in the desert. Whoa.
The plot builds with plenty of danger and creepy human behavior (read psychotic). The kind of action that makes me wince when I see it on a movie screen, but madly flip pages when I am reading about it in a book. Without giving anything away, I’ll just mention that the scene with the antagonist smearing ash from a car fire over his body before slicing his skin, to add his own blood to the mix, will be with me (in a good way) for a while.
But IN THE PATH OF FALLING OBJECTS is more than a survival story. This novel goes much deeper. It is a story about brotherhood and the bonds that are often forged through heartbreak and tragedy. The characters are human, blemishes and all. I felt compassion for the vulnerable Jonah, the rebellious Simon, the desperate Lilly, and even the scary-crazy Mitch. And for me, the compassion brings these well drawn characters to life.
Andrew Smith’s IN THE PATH OF FALLING OBJECTS will be available in October.