Hannah is a regular flesh and blood girl, but in this story, that ends when 8th grade does. Following graduation she is to become like her parents and the rest of the adults – a puppet – a wooden puppet controlled by strings that stretch into the sky. The sky is a mysterious black void where the strings come from. As you might have gathered from this introduction, we’re dealing in bizarro fiction and a novel concept.
Puppet parents place the same demands on their children as you would expect, asking them what they want to do with their lives. Hannah’s not like the others. She’s rebellious and not looking forward to life as a puppet as her graduation day nears. She likes the flexibility and uniqueness of her meat based human body.
We follow Hannah’s voyage of discovery as she uncovers more and more about the puppet filled world in which she lives, and what lurks beneath the surface. After the graduation ceremony, you go to the final testing room for conversion, and the tension leading up to that is intense. The final testing room is where your strings are attached, and you are changed from within by the strange puppetfeed being pumped into your body. Reading about children lining up for conversion is truly unsettling and will give you a knot in your stomach.
As well as this being a bizarro book, including fun terms like mompet and dadpet for mom and dad, it’s not short on the horror. There are plenty of disturbing images, such as a counsellor puppet vomiting up grubs, and sharp objects going into brains. When the placid and rigid movements of adult puppets become different it takes a very sinister turn. Throughout the book there is body horror, from the hideous conversion process to insects and bacteria in the body.
There are a number of themes running through this book that relate to real life, such as the rebelliousness of youth and questioning where we fit in. There is the crushing burden of expectation about what an adult is expected to do, seemingly without choice. There is also the question of faith, namely the Puppeteer that all the puppets believe in but never see. The author also looks at the lengths to which society goes to in order to preserve the status quo. This is all delivered through a bizarre and inventive story.
This is a book that asks questions and delivers them with striking imagery.
Reviewed by Andrew Tadman @thebooksofblood.