cover image Snowflake, AZ

Snowflake, AZ

Marcus Sedgwick. Norton, $18.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-324-00441-7

In a note to readers, Sedgwick (Saint Death) cites his own bout with a “disputed” chronic illness as an inspiration for this cautionary tale. Eighteen-year-old Ash is shocked to learn that his brother, Bly, has dropped out of the police academy in San Francisco. In search of answers, Ash follows him to Snowflake, Ariz., and discovers that Bly is sick with an environmental illness. He, like others suffering from various forms of chemical and/or electromagnetic sensitivities, has found refuge and camaraderie in the isolated town. When Ash also falls ill with the disease and joins the community, he learns firsthand what it is like to have an ailment that most of the public, including medical professionals, believe is “all in his head.” Throughout, Sedgwick offers musings by educated community members (including philosophy professor Mona, engineer Detlef, and cave-dwelling scientist Polleux) on a number of topics, for example epigenetics (how diseases, stress, and toxins can change genes) and the biological roots of kindness. Framed as a memoir narrated by a much older, wiser Ash, this raw, deeply philosophical tale leaves readers with a timely, sobering message about how humankind’s treatment of the environment impacts the environment’s treatment of humankind. Ages 13–up. [em](Sept.) [/em]