In his most complex work to date, Selznick examines the unique realities surrounding love and death.
Seeking knowledge of the world on his 13th birthday, the unnamed narrator sets sail with his friend James (both are assumed White). A storm carries them to the Moon, where James brilliantly defends the night and sleep in a battle with the Sun, because “without dreams, everything dies.” He is crowned king, and the protagonist wonders how he will live without him back on Earth. Twenty-three more chapters reveal dreamlike (nonlinear, often phantasmagorical) fragments of the boys’ relationship, before and after separation/death. Each is introduced by an exquisite, graphite illustration that is preceded by a symmetrical, kaleidoscopic version of the scene: These provide foreshadowing, focus, and an aura of spiritual mystery. Settings involving shattered glass or mysterious forest lights like “the entire world had turned into jewels” further the titular provocation. While the deftly constructed chapters could stand alone, the author plants images—biblical, mythological, scientific, Sendak-ian, and even David Bowie–esque—that shift and reappear: The last view of the apple, served by a dragon, leads the protagonist to ponder a (post-Edenic) life with answers but without wonder. Labyrinths, angels, clocks, butterflies, and clasped hands resurface, prompting contemplation of fear, solace, the fluidity of time, the thrill of connection. How do you find/feel love after death? How do you live with grief?
While Selznick trusts readers to draw their own conclusions about what is true, he offers rich companionship on the voyage.(author's note) (Fiction. 11-adult)