Bent Heavens

Holt. Feb. 2020. 304p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250151674.
Gr 9 Up–As she was walking to school her freshman year, Liv Fleming came across an alarming sight: her father, the high school’s English and drama teacher, naked and gibbering incoherently in the town square. He had been missing for four days. As the town looked on and EMTs loaded him into an ambulance, Lee Fleming shouted one phrase: “biologic evidence!” After a year spent claiming he was abducted by aliens, Lee went missing again, this time for good. Now, as Liv steadfastly trudges through her senior year, she has accepted that her father is dead, but that doesn’t stop her from checking his alien traps every Sunday with her friend Doug, the town’s outcast and Lee’s disciple. However, she’s fed up with childhood memories—she’s leaving for college in a few months anyway—but on the day she decides to destroy the traps, the unthinkable happens—an alien is caught. Liv and Doug now face an impossible decision: turn the alien over to the authorities, or keep it a secret and try to find out what happened to Lee Fleming. Kraus dissects loss and anger through the underused genre of alien abduction. Liv and Doug’s grief and fury toward the “skinner,” as Lee calls the aliens, are fully and uncomfortably realized at times. The prose is lyrically visceral and can be unsettling, but the genuine voices of the characters lend themselves to a story that is ultimately a haunting and heartbreaking look at human suffering and the lengths we will go for our loved ones.
VERDICT Beautiful prose does little to mask the anger of this powerful narrative. Readers will have a hard time putting this down.

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