When the guy’s site is StrangeBlackFlowers.com and he’s published, you have to assume the author has some serious talent. And Ronald L. Smith delivers.
Think Whitley Streiber’s COMMUNION* made into a way creepier, way more relatable middle-grade speculative fiction book about alien abductions, conspiracy theorists, and crystal children, and you have THE OWLS HAVE COME TO TAKE US AWAY.
Twelve-year-old Simon is a dreamer obsessed with aliens, who feels the sting of not measuring up to either his popular athlete older brother or to his Air Force dad’s expectations. When a strange incident (with a screen memory of the titular owls) makes him think he’s been abducted, Simon can’t write it off as just a dream. His dad’s work is just… too secretive for comfort.
The stronger Simon’s detractors become**, the more allies from all walks of life come out of the woodwork to help him make sense of his memories.
That is, until the day that nobody can stay neutral anymore. (Yeah, that’s vague, I’m not mean enough to do a spoiler).
- It’s not self-harm, but Simon tries to cut an alien implant out of his stomach, and is put in a psychiatric hospital as it looked like a suicide attempt. To be clear, the real creep factor in this story is the aliens and the unanswered questions, but that’s a potential trigger warning.
Oh, and let’s be clear that there is nothing sexual about the abductions.
- Simon is biracial (Dad is white; Mom is Black) but it’s not central to the story. We need more books like these!
- If I were the sort to follow UFO-believing podcasts/YouTube channels, I would probably be able to tell you that the general sequence and details of Simon’s abduction and encounters are spot-on. I’d also know that there are tons of UFO/alien lore Easter eggs throughout. Ahem.
- Even with a complicated story, it’s a snappy pace where the reader is left to fill in a lot of their own details… in a way that makes the story all the more spine-tingling. If I were to bogart the #SpookyMG hashtag, this book should be on it.
- The ending blew my mind.
Smith’s theme (my takeaway) is: Tell the truth and people who don’t understand you, think you’re crazy. That’s something that will resonate with a lot of middle-grade readers. Of all ages.
Also, even in the ARC with most of the artwork “TK” I can see the finished book will be stunning:
Thank you to BetterWorld Books who gave me a generous GC to their site that got me this volume! I’m a little sad someone put an ARC up for sale but at least it got into the hands of a fan. 🦉
THE OWLS HAVE COME TO TAKE US AWAY is out now from Clarion books.
*I loved COMMUNION.
** And writers, you want a mentor text with an ambiguous antagonist? Order a copy of this book, yesterday.
Yeah, I wasn’t going to include the SNL alien abductions, but it’s too funny not to: