In this beautifully written novel, Ali takes us to a place that could be anywhere in the world – but isn’t. A land that Julie Bertagna described in Exodus, where technology makes a fleeting appearance but constitutes a refreshingly small amount of the actual book. That’s the thing that makes the book so magical for me. There’s no hint of a modern day society dominating this narrative, just a world where the only things that matter are the people in it.
Ida Maclaird is turning into glass and it’s up to Midas Crook, a boy battling the hated memories of his hated dad, to get over his fear of intimacy and love, to try and help her. The way Ali describes Ida turning into glass is so many things all at once; beautiful, realistic, horrifying, surreal – and above all, refreshingly original. Scenes where Midas explores her body further to see that the glass is further encroaching on Ida’s body are so gorgeously written but so stark that the reader isn’t sure whether the cry at this metamorphasis into death or will her to complete the transformation just so Ali can describe it. It takes a brilliant and courageous writer not to employ the get-out-of-jail free clause and magic Ida better, or for Midas’ love to heal her completely.
Instead we are left with an ending that is meaningful, poignant and sincere; full of bleak realism, but optimism, hope, and we can actually imagine Midas setting out into the world strengthened by his time with Ida and inspired by her courageousness to explore the world that was halted by the ungainly transformation of her limbs. The other characters are almost redundant for me – I don’t care about Carl, or Midas Crook Sr., but there is a magic in Gustav and his tender daughter Denver that symbolise loss and the untimely death of love that impinges on Midas’ every action. Henry Fuwa and his bull-winged moths almost deserve their own story – I want to hear more about them, I want to see this other world that Ali has half-created that fascinated me nearly as much as the glass limbs.
A bold, compelling novel that steeps the reader in a world long gone – and one that is still yet to come.