Snowflake, AZ

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

Marcus Sedgwick sure writes some unique stuff. I won't pretend that this was my favorite of his per se, but it definitely had some thought provoking moments. In the book, Ash sets out to find stepbrother Bly, who's disappeared into this remote community in Arizona (ironically named Snowflake). When Ash arrives, they find that it's a community of people living primarily off the grid, but the reason is surprising. As it turns out, it's because they all have chronic, mostly undiagnosed illnesses and seem to find some respite in this way of life.

Ash was a character who I had some trouble connecting with, especially in the beginning. We're given a precious few details about Ash, and I do wonder if perhaps that was the point? That Ash could (and in a way is) any of us? Regardless, I think I might have felt a bigger pull if I knew anything about Ash pre-Snowflake. But the story of the townsfolk, Ash's relationship with Bly, the illnesses that overwhelm the community, they were all quite compelling.

There's definitely a big element of mental health in comorbidity with chronic illness, which is something Beth's post touches upon. The best part of this book for me was how honest it is about the difficulty of living with a chronic illness. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. The exhausting toll it takes, how doctors brush it off, how the outside world reacts. Even more devastating is the next bit, which needs both a trigger warning and a spoiler warning: (view spoiler) I do wish that this particular piece was explored further, though. I think that while we can understand it all from a surface-level perspective, it could have been followed through with a bit more.

Toward the end of the book, I did feel a better connection with Ash, especially in the relationship they formed with Mona and other members of the community. And while the ending did leave questions unanswered, I thought it did so in an understandable and appropriate way that didn't leave me frustrated.

Bottom Line: Absolutely thought provoking and relevant, but missing a bit of the human connection.
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There is such oddness in the book, and it isn't the main topic of the type of environmental illness either, it's the way the book is written.

First off the narrator, Ash, calls him/her self a kid (it's never firmly stated if Ash is a boy or girl, I'm going with girl for pronouns sake). Early on Ash says she is 18, but the way Ash thinks is more like aged 12. It's way off, the age and the writing level and the extreme immaturity. So I found myself continually asking, how old is Ash?

Another weird thing was the relationship with the step-brother. I get the closeness, but there's a point where it seems like it's going beyond that, maybe. It's just odd. Or written different than intended.

And there's this repetition, particularly in the beginning, of certain phrasing gets old very quick. But I understand this is a young adult book and maybe it plays better there, for the younger side of YA. There are other little things as well, in the writing style, it just didn't work for me.

The main issue addressed in the book is a good one. The delivery, the writing style, it was more difficult. The main protagonist, Ash, is written in an odd way. Maybe younger people will connect more with the book than I did. I also have to say that I absolutely hated the ending.
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Thanks to Netgalley for the complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

I usually adore this author and was excited for an opportunity to read this. Unfortunately, this book was a little slow for me. It feels important and has many ideas that are interesting, but not much happens. This book is more one of ideas than events.
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I've liked Marcus Sedgwick's work in the past because it was weird in a different and interesting and lovely sort of way. This one was also weird, but in a meandering and conspiratorial and not particularly interesting way. Feels more like an author who started reading about a topic and then wanted to write a story about it and so tossed in some random ingredients (a narrator who speaks in an inexplicably Huck Finn-esque dialect! a brother slash potential love interest! a bunch of extremely highly educated scientists/academics who have the same chronic illness! Arizona!) to try to make a story of it.
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Ash sets out with little more than a postcard from Snowflake, AZ to find his dear step-brother, Bly,.  The mystery of why his brother would live in a ramshackle collection of sheds populated by a goat, a dog and various kindly loners slowly unwraps as Ash succumbs to the toxic effects of 21st century chemicals.  MCS makes it impossible for all the Snowflake inhabitants to go back to the 'real world' which is hurtling towards a cataclysmic event.  Sedgwick creates a complex community of environmental refugees who become Ash's family, teachers, rescuers who share food, clothing, shelter and philosophy. Whimsy combines with stark issues and deep questions.
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This is difficult. I think Marcus Sedgwick is a genius and I wanted, rather badly, to enjoy this book. The fact is that I didn't, not even a little. That said, the last page, kind of like the last story in Dubliners, made the slog of the rest of it worth it, more than, perhaps.
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Snowflake, AZ is what you expect from Marcus Sedgwick, a quirky, thought provoking, what the heck did I just read kind of book!  Ash arrives in Snowflake, AZ in search of his brother, Bly.  Ash quickly learns that Snowflake isn’t your usual town.  Among its high elevation, Snowflake is home to nothing but sick residents.  The only cure for these residents is to stay away from modern life.  The chemicals will make you sick.  The overall question of this book is are you sick or is it all in your head?  Ash questions, grieves, learns, and grows throughout his quest for recovery.
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