Sunday, June 09, 2024

Simon Sort of Says, by Erin Bow

If you're going to write a book about school shootings for middle school-aged readers, there's something to be said for making it deliriously funny.  Throwing in radio telescopes, a mortuary, sackbuts, a quirky small town in western Nebraska, crazed emus, birthing goats, the Jesus Squirrel, and an amourous peacock is just the sort of thing to take the reader's mind off of a grimmer story of PTSD and survivor guilt.

Simon is the sole survivor of a classroom shooting two years ago.  To escape the media attention, his family relocated to the small town of Grin and Bear It, Nebraska.  GNB, as the locals call it, isn't just in the middle of nowhere, it's the home of a series of radio telescopes and thus ruled a National Quiet Zone, where wireless transmissions and the internet are banned.  The prohibition is intended to maintain the quiet that the radio astronomers need to conduct their work, but it also provides cover for Simon and his family -- atown that lives off the net.

In the remote quiet of GNB, Simon is able to make new friends and start a new life -- which in his case involves a seriously sophisticated plan to prank the astronomers.  However, keeping his origins a secret is nearly impossible (especially when a missing corpse brings unwanted attention to GNB) and when the cover is blown, Simon has the come to terms with what he is hiding from.  With the help of the emus and Pretty Stabby the peacock, he manages to do so.

Uproariously funny and full of absurd non-sequitors that come together in the end, the author reveals a great wit that doesn't triffle over the details (like when she confuses the beginning of the movies Contact and Armageddon). It's a shame to limit this to tween readers as I was laughing with every page and adults will enjoy the chaos and lighthearted nature of the storytelling.  That it is ultimately about somethimg super serious makes the book that much more remarkable.  You'll laugh, but you probably won't cry (unless you're the Jesus Squirrel, in which case things might not go so well for you!).

No comments: