March 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld | SLJ Review

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redstarWESTERFELD, Scott. Spill Zone. illus. by Alex Puvilland. 224p. First Second. May 2017. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781596439368.

GN-Westerfeld-SpillZoneGr 10 Up –It’s a mystery why three years ago Poughkeepsie suddenly broke the boundaries of reality, giving life to demonic wolves and sentient twisters, or why its human inhabitants now hang suspended in the air like puppets. It wasn’t aliens, it wasn’t a nuclear attack, and the military isn’t talking. That isn’t Addison’s mystery to solve; all she has to do is go into this quarantined area—the Spill Zone—and photograph the bizarre happenings. She sells the images to support herself and her sister, Lexa. But soon the woman buying the bulk of the photographs presents Addison with the opportunity to embark on a deadly mission inside the Spill Zone, with the reward of a cool million dollars should she succeed. Meanwhile, the North Korean government, which had its own Spill incident, wants to meet with Addison for their own ominous purposes. Then there’s Lexa’s rag doll, Vespertine, who whispers devious thoughts in Lexa’s mind. Westerfeld and Puvilland have created an imaginative, nightmarish powerhouse, with hectic line work and loud, vivid colors. This first of a duology wisely moves at a slow pace, rather than immediately revealing the plot and backstory of this warped world. Ultimately, the characters are the most compelling part of the book. Addison is particularly complex: though she is sympathetic, her decisions are intentionally presented as morally questionable. Harsh profanity and violence make this a more appropriate choice for mature readers. This unnerving, gripping title—Westerfeld’s first original graphic novel—is bound to entice older comics fans, especially those interested in darker sci-fi and nuanced characterization. VERDICT A must-have for teen and graphic novel collections.–Matisse Mozer, Los Angeles Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2017 issue.