Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston ISBN: 9780763661465
Plot Summary: Valkyrie White has lost both her parents to the black helicopters sent by the government. Now it is up to her and her brother, Bo, to carry on their father’s mission and spread his message to the world. That message is strapped to her chest in the form of an explosive. Though flashes through time, from times with her dad, to the night before, and the day she drives around looking for a target, we see a picture of her life, and the world she lives in where the government is the enemy and there are very few you can truly trust.
Critical Evaluation: This was a somewhat difficult book to wrap my brain around. Chapters and linear segments are short and sometimes only add to the confusion. This structure of weaving through time and types of information seems to be designed to get the reader into the mindset of Valkyrie. She has been taught from an early age to have a certain mindset, that of distrust of the government and self-subsistence. I do have to say that this format makes it somewhat difficult to get into this book. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to a reluctant reader because of that. However, for a reader who is willing to do a little fitting of puzzle pieces, it is an enjoyable read.
And though the language is sparse, again, I think this is intentional and actually does more to paint an accurate setting. I think this use of language is more economical and discerning. This is not a book where the author is paid by the word or page count. It’s somewhere in between a short story and novel, which I guess could be considered a novella. Either way, the length and the stream of conscious style could make it harder to get to know the characters. However, I have no trouble seeing the setting of this book, or understanding each character’s motivations.
Reader’s Annotation: The Black Helicopters took away Valkyrie and Bo’s parents. Now she’s got a message for them of her own, strapped to her chest.
Information about the author: Blythe Woolston currently lives in Billings, Montana. She spends her time compiling indexes for nonfiction texts as well as writing YA fiction. Her first novel, The Freak Observer, won the William C. Morris debut fiction award.
At one time, she planned on studying nursing, but switched to English. In the past she has also been a university teacher, and worked on the publishing process of computer manuals.
Genre: Dystopian, Survival Stories
Curriculum ties, if any: This might be an interesting book to read in relation to talking about suicide bombers, or those with anti-government beliefs.
Booktalking Ideas: I think for this book, I would highlight how short the book is, but also that there is a lot going on in such a small book. The story moves around from the past to the present, but all present action takes place in about a day and a half, so it kind of feels like 24, except from the opposite perspective. 24 might be too old of a reference though, so I would look for something more current to compare it to.
Reading Level/Interest Age: The descriptions of violence and occasional coarse language suggest that this is better suited to an older reader. Also, the main character is 15. School Library Journal recommends this book for readers in 9th grade and up, and Publisher’s Weekly for reader’s 14 years old and older.
- Violence, especially suicide bombings
- First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
- Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
- Bibliographic Citation of the book.
- A description of who the book is best suited for.
- A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
- My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
- Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
- ALA Library Bill of Rights
- Good and bad reviews of the book
- Alternative works a student could read
- Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
- When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
- If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.
I think could promote more understanding between different sets of beliefs. I don’t know many books that look at the world from the perspective of a suicide bomber, so I think this would incite some really interesting discussions. It could be very controversial, but I do think that a greater understanding of this perspective might have benefits not just for the individual reader, but our society as a whole.
Why did you include this book? : It received very good reviews, and is totally different than most of the other books I read.
Ren Suma, N. (February 16, 2012). Turning points: Odd duck by Blythe Woolston. Distraction No. 99. Retrieved from http://distraction99.com/2012/02/16/turning-points-odd-duck-by-blythe-woolston-giveaway/