Girl in Landscape



Author: Lethem, Jonathan

Title: Girl in Landscape

Genre: Literary Fiction, Science Fiction

Publication Date: 1998

Number of Pages: 280

Geographical Setting: New York, Planet of the Archbuilders

Time Period: Future

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:

In this lyrically written coming of age story, Pella Marsh and her family make the trek from Brooklyn, New York to the Planet of the Archbuilders to start over. The children’s mother dies shortly before leaving for the new planet, leaving Pella, her two brothers, and her father, Clement, to explore this new planet without her. The planet was previously inhabited by Archbuilders who have left behind a few of their own, as well as viruses, and ruins in a desolate landscape.  The remaining Archbuilders are peaceful and unique creatures, fascinated with the English language. There are a few human inhabitants on the planet, all of who take anti-viral drugs to stop the Archbuilder viruses from growing within them.  Pella and her family opt not to take the anti-viral pills, leaving them susceptible to the viruses. Pella finds herself turning into an invisible “household deer”, creatures that cover the landscape of the planet, entering homes, and running wild.  This gives her the ability to spy on others in the new town, sometimes much to her dismay. Pella finds herself both repelled and attracted to the town xenophobic leader, Efram Nugget. This novel explores grief, growing up, sexual awakening, and the morals created in society.

Subject Headings: Teenage girls, Aliens (Non-humanoid), Father and daughter, Homesteaders, Loners, Space colonies

Appeal: set in the future, moving, darkly humorous, offbeat, suspenseful, sympathetic character, engrossing, exotic location, lyrically written, haunting, coming of age story, alien life

3 Appeal terms to best describe book: coming of age story, exotic location, offbeat

3 Fiction read-alikes:

The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway: This book was chosen because it takes place in an unfamiliar landscape and explores our sense of humanity.  This offbeat, darkly humorous story set in the future is a genre-bending fast paced story of friendship.

The Searchers by Alan LeMay: Girl in Landscape is often compared the classic western film, The Searchers, adapted from this novel.  In many ways, Girl in Landscape can be considered a western set in the future.  The Searchers deals with frontier life, xenophobia, and relationships between siblings.

Jumper by Steven Gould: Much like Pella, the main character of this novel, Davy, is given special abilities.  He is able to teleport himself away from his troubled life at any time.  This coming of age story combines science fiction with reality as it explore ethical dilemmas.

3 Non-fiction read-alikes:

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs: This book was chosen because it is a coming of age story full of interesting and unique characters.  Like Pella, Augusten grew up in a very unconventional manner without rules or much parental guidance through their teenage years.

First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth by Marc Kaufman: This book discusses the scientific reasoning behind the belief that there is extraterrestrial life out there.  The book is not too technical, making it accessible for readers not familiar with scientific terminology and concepts.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers: This witty, character-driven memoir discusses dealing with the loss of parents at an earlier age.  Dave is also responsible for his brother after the death of his parents, much in the way Pella takes on responsibilities with her brothers after the loss of her mother.


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