I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.
If you regularly read this blog, you will already know that I am a fan of Chris Bohjalian. The first book of his that I read was THE DOUBLE BIND and I hated it. That sounds odd coming from a fan, right? I had a visceral reaction to it and vowed not to read another book by him. It wasn't so much the writing as the story itself. I made a comment negative comment about Bohjalian on Twitter. Note to self: be careful what you say publicly! Bohjalian replied in a most gracious manner. His publicist send me his newest book to change my mind: THE NIGHT STRANGERS. I loved it. I have read every book since and I am constantly amazed at not only how prolific he is but also how you cannot pigeonhole him into a particular genre. He seems to reinvent himself with each book.
His latest book tells the story of teen runaway Emily Shepard. Emily's parents worked at a nuclear plant in Vermont that had a horrific meltdown. Facing not only the loss of parents but also the painful accusations flying around that blame her family for the devastation, Emily runs away and tries to reinvent herself. From life in a shelter to life on the streets, Emily attempts to survive. When she meets another young runaway named Cameron, her life changes as now she has someone else to take care of. Her relationship with Cameron change the course of her life and forces her to confront the loss of her life before the meltdown.
The story itself is heart-wrenching. Bohjalian reminds of how difficult life can be for homeless teens. The twist to this all-too-common tale is the nuclear meltdown that precipitated Emily's fall. I can see this book having cross-over appeal for the older young adult market. However, the subject matter is very mature. I think one of my favorite parts of the book is the title. Bohjalian reveals in the story where he got the title and I think it fits this story beautifully.
BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended. While I definitely wouldn't classify this as escapist fiction, it held my attention. It is a sad and often heartbreaking tale but Emily is such a likeable character that you can't help but hope for the best for her. The ending is a bit ambiguous but I really liked the book overall.