If you told me you’d read a book about aliens, falling horses, puppetry, and head trauma and loved it so much you’d not recovered for days, I’d say: “Go home. You are book-drunk.”
Then I’d demand your copy and develop book crush number 9413.
Andrew Smith’s ‘100 Sideways Miles’ is a mosh-pit of oddity. But it’s also a tender tale.
Finn Easton knows the earth is always spinning and what we regard as time is also travel—sideways movement—and so he counts his life in miles. He fears he might also be trapped in a book, since his father—the author of an epically popular, unfinished sci-fi series—has written a character who is uncannily like Finn, with the same name, scar, and medical condition.
Finn just wants to know who he is. Is he real or a fictional character? At least he knows he’ll stay friends forever with school legend, Cade Hernandez. And he knows he likes the new girl, Julia Bishop, but having seizures in front of her is not how he hoped to spark her love.
The book contains heavenly passages that will send you afloat through time and space and make you feel the blurry lines between Finn and his dad’s sci-fi world.
The story is resolutely about friendship—the bonds we form in high school when we barely know ourselves but know how important it is to feel we belong—and finding one’s identity when the markers for that identity were laid out by others before we had a choice. Finn’s chronic illness and how it interacts with his identity, self-confidence, and relationships is given a raw but gentle touch.
Most authors know the key to snatching readers resides in the first few pages. Here, Andrew Smith has written some of the best I’ve ever read. Hilariously, some of it barely relates to the overarching story.
But I forgive Andrew Smith, immediately. For every unexpected, unusual choice.