Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Utopia, Iowa

Utopia, Iowa
Brian Yansky
Candlewick Press
Somerville, Massachusetts
Berryville, VA
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6533-3
$ 17.99
323 pages

  "I wanted to write about a magical Midwestern small town and a boy who will have to leave that magical town to chase his dream of writing the movies.  There's murder, mystery, and mayhem in this novel, but at the heart is the struggle of a boy to leave family, friends, and home behind to pursue his dreams."
For Jack Bell, who is entering his senior year in high school, life is not easy.  Jack's mouth tends to have a life of its own and he enjoys the trouble he causes, even if it means numerous detentions.  He has big dreams of being a screen writer and believes that this will be his last year living in Utopia.  His life next year will need to be in California.
Utopia, Iowa is a quiet town where almost nothing happens.  It truly lives up to its name.  There is  no crime, no murders, almost so safe and quiet that it is magical.  Yes, it is magical and even though the residents appear normal, most who call this their hometown have inherited special gifts or talents.
Jack, like those in time, has a special gift.  He communicates with the ghost of those recently deceased.  Adding to his problems, there is a new ghost visiting him, wanting his help.
All of that changes when there is a death at the local college.   This dead female student is the one who is currently "haunting" Jack.   She is confused about her death and wants answers.   Was this murder or suicide?
This one event seems to upset the entire town.  Things that were quiet and perfect and now changing.  This quiet town in northeastern Iowa overlooking the Mississippi River is now having family fights.  This includes Jack's parents who always seemed to be deeply in love.   Now they are fighting and talking about separating.  Will they divorce?
The ghost  is making more frequent visits and really seems to want peace. So how does a teenaged-boy get into a girl's dormitory room the is closed with police tape?  He doesn't even know the girl.  Will he risk it?   What will the police think when he finds the book that might answer the dead girl's inquiry?  Will this solve the mystery?  If it is murder, will Jack be involved?
This story is appropriate for all readers with an intended audience of high-school students.  There is acceptable language and no violence.  There is a light discussion of smoking cigarettes and drinking.  The magic is limited to the special abilities of the town.
.Author Brian Yansky is an associate professor at Austin Community College in Austin, Texas where he also resides.  He has previously written Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences and the sequel, Homicidal Aliens and Other  Disappointments.   His other published novels are Wonders of the World and My Road Trip to the Pretty Girl Capital of the World.
Utopia, Iowa is a story of the idealistic Midwest of small town Iowa.   The characters are basically realistic even with their special gifts all combined into a fast-paced lightly humorous mystery.

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