Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Page Count: 336
Release Date: June 7, 2022
*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*
CW: racism, physical altercations, death
When I first heard about Adi Alsaid’s Before Takeoff, which was described as a sort of YA The Sun Is Also a Star meets Jumanji, I was immediately intrigued by the premise. I’m sad to say that I don’t think the execution was really for me.
Told from an omniscient POV, I found myself mostly confused by the tone of the novel. On the one hand, you have typical banter and musings about life’s meaning only a teen could express with full angst while awkwardly flirting with their counterpart – which is totally fitting since this is a YA story. The narration underlines that with a lot of humor, sprinkled with knowledge that only the reader will be privy to, while the characters are none the wiser. However, on the other hand, the story got a lot darker and weirder than I expected, with much more permanent consequences. That, in a way, made it feel much bigger than YA and possibly more suitable for older teens on the cusp of adulthood. Ultimately, this tonal inconsistency didn’t fit the narration style in my mind.
In addition to that, I thought we’d mostly focus on James and Michelle, but we also learned about so many side characters, that I eventually found hard to keep track of. Same with the layout of the actual airport and its different gates and climates. While they added to the big picture, showing that this scenario was so much grander than the two kids, it simultaneously didn’t allow for enough depth to get attached to certain characters.
Having said all that, the world building was still something else. There was a certain randomness to it that kept my heart racing with anxiety and worry, but also glee at what might happen next. It’s a micro study of human behavior in the strangest of circumstances, and while it only scratched the surface of what makes us good and terrible as a species, it really delivered on some insightful and profound moments.
Lastly, I don’t think this book will be for everyone. Personally, I was just mad at some points (mixed with some sad), but also very confused. It’s a wild ride, that’s for sure! If you feel like it might be the right story for you – go for it! Just, please, don’t read it at an airport. Read it somewhere safe at home!
Fazit: 3/5 stars! Interesting but also wildly confusing and darker than expected.