I loved the Gemma Doyle trilogy by Bray and was excited to hear that she was writing a new book. This book is completely different from the Gemma Doyle story; it is more of a wacky and darkly humorous coming of age tale of a boy named Cameron. I liked the book, it was very entertaining although I found the last quarter of the book to be somewhat ambiguous and difficult to follow.
Cameron is kind of a loser. He doesn't care much about anything. Then he is diagnosed with mad cow's disease and finds out that he is going to die. That is until a punk angel named Dulcie shows up in his hospital room and tells him that he is actually infected by dark matter. Dulcie tells him that if he can find Dr. X (the mad scientist that traveled through different realities and brought dark matter back to earth) then Dr. X can cure Cameron and Cameron can save the world from absolute destruction. So Cameron along with Gonzo, the midget, and Balder, the yard gnome, take off on a quest to save the world (and Cameron) from absolute destruction.
The plot of this book is quick moving, if a bit meandering, and takes you on a number of wandering and unexpected paths. The story is chock-full of delightfully bizarre characters and interesting personalities. Much of this book reminded me of Daniel Pinkwater's "The Neddiad"; it has similar bizarre characters, teaches a coming-of-age lesson, follows a strange path, and has the whole save the world from absolute destruction theme to it. This book is darkly humorous and deals with a number of issues that many teens face.
Much of the story is about Cameron learning how to live and take an interest in life. Although as the story continues things get vague. Cameron has periodic flashbacks or episodes where he is being treated in the hospital; although the reader is lead to think these are dreams. As the story progresses it is difficult to tell if his adventure are reality or him being in the hospital is reality. The end confused the heck out of me and I had no idea whether Cameron was alive or dead and which reality he had ended up in. So, those who like a clear-cut story should look else where. I do understand that to some extent this story was about alternate realities, so some confusion generally comes a long with that.
While I don't mind some vagueness in my books and content that makes the reader wonder and think; I do think that the end portion of the book could have been a bit clearer about what was happening. The end is almost dreamlike and left me feeling unsatisfied as a reader. Also there is a lot of drug use, sex, and swearing in this book; so I would recommend it for the older young adult set rather than the younger set.
In summary this was an entertaining read. With wonderfully bizarre characters, a surprisingly engaging plot, it was great fun. The only part I didn't enjoy was the ambiguity of the ending. I will definitely keep reading Bray's future works. I think the drastic change of genre for this book was a great decision on her part and really shows the breadth of her writing talent.