I managed to read three of my four picks on Do Nothing But Read Day this past Sunday. I didn’t get to Siobhan Dowd’s Bog Child, but it’s still on my list. However, I wanted to share my favorite book of the day with you, because I think it has wide appeal.
My favorite book that I read on Sunday, and maybe the best book I’ve read in a while, was In the Path of Falling Objects, by Andrew Smith. It’s a fascinating novel that looks unflinchingly at what the Vietnam War did to both soldiers in combat and their families at home; combine that storyline with a psychopath who picks up two hitchhiking boys, and you’ve got a powerful, surprisingly poignant, novel.
I was amazed at how Smith managed to intertwine these plots together, and still convey the gravity of war and mental illness. At first glance, this book seems extremely odd. Two teenage brothers, Jonah and Simon, are leaving home because their electricity has been off for days and they don’t know where their mother is. Their horse dies, and they are stuck walking across the New Mexican desert. All the while, Jonah is thinking about their other brother, Matthew, who is in Vietnam. Jonah has all of Matthew’s letters with him, and these letters appear in nearly every chapter. The boys get picked up by Mitch and Lilly; she is nice, he is insane. At times this book felt like a really well-made horror movie, directed by Rob Zombie, and in other places, it felt like a documentary about combat fatigue. I know that that is an odd way to describe it, but I honestly cannot think of another way.
I am of the opinion that there are not nearly enough young adult books that a) take place in the Vietnam era and b) include characters affected by the Vietnam war. The same could be said about Cambodia. Recently this has started to change. I think forty-five years is enough time in which to heal some of those wounds, and writers are starting to use the late 1960s and early 1970s as a backdrop more and more. I would really like to see this continue and grow; as a child of a Vietnam veteran, I’m both curious about and frightened of that time and place.
The other books I read on Do Nothing But Read Day were great as well, but In the Path of Falling Objects was the clear winner. I highly recommend it.
What was your favorite read of Do Nothing But Read Day?