Glory O'Brien's History of the Future
Little Brown, 2014 307 pgs
Veteran author of teen fiction, A.S. King, presents a pivotal week in the life of Glory O'Brien: the week she graduates from high school and drinks a bat. Glory lives with her father in the shadow of her famous and deceased photographer mother. Both have put their lives on autopilot since Mom's suicide when Glory was four. Now, Glory feels like an observer in her own life. She hides behind a camera at school and makes no meaningful connections with other humans. The one exception is her best friend Ellie, who is home-schooled and resides on the hippie commune across the street. Out of boredom Glory and Ellie drink the ashy remains of a dead bat mixed with warm beer. The next day both girls wake up differently: they can see people's past and future just by looking at them. Ellie sees harmless things, like ingrown toenails and strange fetishes. Glory on the other hand sees important things, specifically transmissions of the second American Civil War that will happen in her lifetime. The war will come from a place of sexism and will result in refuges living in trees and women being practically slaves to men. As Glory's week progresses she sees more glimpses into the war and, eventually, her place in it. During this time she also processes the death of her mother, the sad life of her father, her one-sided relationship with Ellie, and who she is and how to proceed with her life. Both Glory and Ellie's lives change significantly from the experience and a huge shake down occurs by the end of the book, leaving Glory to pick up her life and move forward by book's end.
I would love to know where A.S. King gets her ideas. Her first book The Dust of 100 Dogs I first read when it came out in 2009 and it still haunts me. Her books are edgy, original, and plot driven, all while offering meaning and substance. Glory O'Brien is no exception. The concept of drinking a bat is so off the wall and intriguing (I totally would have done that as a teenager if given the opportunity). The bat is significant because Glory thinks she is going bat s*** crazy. Is she? The reader isn't sure until we see that Ellie has had a similar experience, although a much more superficial one, as mirroring her personality. Being a photographer, King uses photographic imagery to relay Glory's experiences. Themes such as feminism, grief, suicide, teen sexuality, fitting in, self-discovery, and empathy are all prevalent in this novel. Glory learns to see the whole outside of her self-inflicted bubble and finds the courage to move ahead with her life. An artist like her mother, she discovers that she is not like her mother in crucial ways and lets go of baggage that has been weighing her down. Always an outsider, by books end Glory realizes that it was self-imposed and that she is accepted by her peers more than she thinks. King clearly has a feminist agenda in this book, but it is not preachy or overwhelming to the plot, more of a cautionary theme. Because of the impending Civil War, this book will appeal to the apocalyptic Hunger Games readers. It will also appeal to pretty much anyone who enjoys a great story with a slightly weird plot.