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Snowflake, AZ

Written by Marcus Sedgwick

Key Stage 4 General Fiction Science Fiction

LoveReading View on Snowflake, AZ

A powerful, timely coming-of-age story that teems with earth-shattering expositions of the state of human and planetary health.

Ash’s story is “probably the same as anyone else’s, more or less, just perhaps with more gas masks and a goat.” The goat is a Tennessee Fainting Goat named Socrates who lives with the isolated Canary community deep in the Arizona desert. The gas masks Ash mentions are needed by the Canaries on account of them suffering from debilitating environmental illnesses that doctors deny the existence of. And so begins a thoroughly thought-provoking novel that tackles huge health and environmental issues.

Ash journeyed to the community in search of his missing stepbrother, Bly. The folk here cannot live in towns or cities due to all the chemicals and smells and electrical fields that trigger incapacitating Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. When Ash gets sick himself he discovers firsthand how it feels to have your symptoms rebuffed by medics who decide, “This is all in your head”, and pretty much declare, “I can’t cure you so you must be mad.” His frustration and pain is tangible. Indeed, Ash’s narrative is brilliantly compelling throughout. He’s a born storyteller whose voice chimes with authentic cadences and detours.

Ash and Bly’s poignant family story is intertwined with much food for thought about a diverse spread of subjects  - genetics, bacteria, antibiotics and human shortsightedness and greed. As former scientist Finch comments, “We are filling the world full of chemicals that we have precisely no idea about, and one not-so-fine day the chickens will come home to roost. With the canaries.” Ash comes to some sharp realisations too. Under the warm, wise tutelage of Mona, he furiously states that, “one day, doctors are gonna finally realize that there ain’t no god-dang difference between the body and the mind anyhow”.

This remarkable novel is underpinned by its acute portrait of fractured folk forging an existence in a fractured world that seems on the brink of end times. But “maybe there’s time for one final chance,” Ash wonders, which will leave readers with a glint of hope and plenty to ponder.

Joanne Owen

Snowflake, AZ Synopsis

A timely, contemporary novel challenging ideas around health - our own and our planet's - and the stigma that persists around illness, by Printz Medallist and internationally bestselling novelist, Marcus Sedgwick.

Ash has lived in eight states in as many years. Mom has gone walkabout, but stepdad Jack is like a father, and stepbrother Bly the best anyone could wish for. When Bly goes missing too, Ash sets off to search for him - and finds something much bigger: the sickness of the world.

Arriving in Snowflake, Arizona, Ash discovers Bly living with a community 6000 feet high in the wide red desert. They call themselves the Canaries and all suffer from some kind of environmental illness. They are ostracised by modern society, as it continues to ignore climate change, global warming and so much more of our self-inflicted poisoning of the planet. When Ash takes ill, the doctor's response is, 'it's all in your mind'. In a story spanning seven years with triumphs and tragedies, Ash learns how to live as the world is pushed to a point of no return. This humane and deeply thoughtful novel is about resilience, trust, family and love.

Snowflake, AZ Press Reviews

'An ominous, relevant, and uniquely compelling read' Kirkus starred review

Book Information

ISBN: 9781788542333
Publication date: 5th September 2019
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 384 pages
Year Groups: Key Stage 4
Topics: Ecological and Environmental, General Fiction, Science Fiction

About Marcus Sedgwick

One of the World Book Day 2015 Authors  Marcus was our Guest Editor in July 2010. Click here to see all his selections. Marcus began to write seriously in 1994, and his first book, Floodland, was published by Orion in 2000, and won the Branford-Boase award for best debut children's novel. Witch Hill followed in 2001, and was nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award. The Kiss of Death was published in paperback in April 2009, and picked up a thread from his highly acclaimed My Swordhand is Singing (winner of the 2007 Booktrust Teenage Book Award). In between came what Marcus calls “my big ...

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