Before Takeoff

Listening Library. Jun. 2022. 903p. $63. ISBN 9780593416723.
Gr 7 Up–An omniscient “we”—seemingly representing Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport—narrates here, cleverly allowing readers plenty of deliciously privileged information. James and Michelle are about to meet-cute in Terminal B to co-consider “a blinking green light that will soon cause all hell to break loose.” Latinx James’s family is going home to Chicago after visiting relatives in Tampa. Michelle’s trajectory is less direct: the Swiss-born French Thai teen—raised in Jakarta and Buenos Aires and now living in Canada—left France and is en route to Quebec via Toronto. Michelle’s peripatetic background has left her with “this accent that morphs”—providing Jade Wheeler an ideal opportunity to practice her impressive versatility. As that predicted “all hell” blankets ATL, the pair will share reality-defying adventures while Wheeler gives listeners a showcase of cranky shop staff, anxious travelers, racist strangers, wannabe rebels, and more.
VERDICT Wheeler beguilingly ensures Alsaid’s sci-fi/thriller/romance takes off.

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