David Almond, author of Skellig, tells another unusual and fascinating tale about a boy who is strange and wonderful. Best suited for Junior/Senior high students, the reader must be patient to read the poorly spelled language of Billy Dean whole narrates his own tale (a la Charlie in Flowers for Algernon). In a post-apocalyptic world, Billy Dean is a secret child, kept hidden behind a locked door and never allowed beyond the house to explore the village of Blinkbonny, which has been bombed nearly to extinction. He is the child of a hairdresser and a sinister estranged priest. Once he emerges from his home, Billy Dean’s eyes are opened and he begins to see the different depths of people he encounters as he discovers that he has the power to see and talk to the dead and perform healing miracles. His final encounter with his father is Oedipal and shocking, but appropriate to the story.
As with so many Almond books, this narrative explores the wonder and beauty of the natural world, of being alive, and of death and dying. The language is pure poetry in places. There are dark themes in the novel–a questioning of organized religion among these–and first sexual explorations. Highly recommended.