The Icarus Show
By Sally Christie
Published by David Fickling Books
ISBN 978 1 910200 91 9
Most books you read, remember for a short while, and then move onto the next one. Sally Christie’s The Icarus Show isn’t one of these. This unique and beautifully imagined novel with its small cast of great characters and gripping plot is something exceptional.
There’s a word for a song that you just can’t get out of your head: an “earworm”. If there isn’t one already, The Icarus Show deserves the equivalent term for books because it gets into your mind and keeps on buzzing long after you’ve finished the final page.
Alex Meadows has not found the move from primary to secondary school an easy one. He has seen the misery dished out to his next-door neighbour David, who tried to take the school bullies head-on, but failed, and now is the victim of name-calling and peer unpleasantness.
This isn’t going to happen to Alex who has a clever maxim for staying out of trouble: stay on the fringes, don’t react and don’t get involved. People who react get hurt, so it’s best to behave like a stone. If a stone gets kicked, all that happens is it ends up a bit further down the road.
Everything is fine, until one day , Alex finds a feather in his bag along with a note that says: “Coming soon. A boy is going to fly”. Other students also start finding feathers and enigmatic notes, and talk of the mystery soon takes over the
Alex becomes obsessed by who could be sending the notes and what they mean. He decides to turn detective, and what he uncovers changes everything both at home and at school. Alex is helped by his best friend Maisie, an old lady who lives in a care home. Maisie senses there is something dangerous behind the mystery of the feathers and warns Alex to be very careful.
The Icarus Show is a uplifting story told with grace and understanding. Christie employs a small cast of characters, and the settings of the secondary school and Alex’s home environment are expertly created. And Alex himself, who narrates his own story, is utterly convincing. His view of the world and what is going on around him drives the novel into unexpected and intriguing areas.
This novel is unmissable. It is one of those rare works of fiction that doesn’t just end when you’ve completed the last page. Read it, reread it, lend it to friends so you can talk about it, and then read it again to see how a good book can amaze you with something new each time you return.
John Millen can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org