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Victoria McQueen, known at different times as Vic or The Brat, inadvertently discovers she has a special gift when she’s about ten years old. If she wants to find something badly enough, she can ride her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike across a rickety wooden covered bridge and find whatever she’s looking for on the other side. The problem? The physical bridge was torn down; she’s creating a new one with her mind.
After finding a kidnapper and helping to put him behind bars in her teens, Vic’s life spirals out of control. She thinks she’s crazy so she starts drinking and doing drugs, with stints in mental hospitals and rehab. But she gets her act together quickly when she finds out that Charlie Manx, the kidnapper, is no longer in prison.
I thought I would probably get to this point after reading his other work but with NOS4A2, it’s official: I love Joe Hill. He is a helluva writer. I’ll be reading his books as they come out. Well, I’ve been doing that since Horns, but I’ll continue doing it.
I was hooked from very early on. I wouldn’t even say that the pacing is all that fast, but it is a very steady burn. There’s a lot of back story and filling in the blanks but it’s all just so intriguing that I kept plowing through. I haven’t been reading particularly fast recently but I still managed to tear through all 680+ pages in about ten days. And that’s including a long, busy weekend out of town.
What really kept me turning the pages was the big heart at the center of the story. Vic’s tough but she had a rough childhood and she’s had a rougher adulthood. She pushes everyone around her away but that’s because she loves them so much she doesn’t want to drag them down with her. But she’s surrounded by people who love her in return and want to help her. They would do anything for her. As much as I like Vic, and I do like her a lot, I might like Lou and Maggie even more. They are such geeky, nerdy, lovable rejects of society. I want them to be my friends. All these characters have had tough lives but they still find it in themselves to love each other and create their own kind of family.
I’m sure I was reading so fast that I missed a few of these little Easter eggs, but I love that Hill is building his own multiverse. You definitely do not have to have read his earlier work to read this book, but if you have, you’ll appreciate a few little references he throws in. Treehouse of the Mind, anyone? I do believe I even caught one or two references to his dad’s books.
The one thing that kept me from giving this five stars is that it did ramble a little bit. Others might disagree, but I personally could have done with less time spent watching Vic’s life go down the toilet. I don’t think that’s the only place I felt that way, but that’s definitely what I remember wishing we could get through a little faster.
But the ending–! The ending was absolute perfection. I was gearing up to be a little disappointed. I thought I saw where it was going and I really wasn’t that happy about it. It would have worked but after what had come before, it would have been weak. But then it went somewhere else and I was happy. And then it went somewhere else again and I was grinning like an idiot and feeling thankful for my tendency to read every single word of a book I really like. He nailed it.
Read this, read Hill’s other books, and continue to read the books-yet-to-be-published. He’s a smart, talented writer and he has earned a lifelong fan in me.
Read an excerpt.
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