Neon Green by Margaret Wappler

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Grade A

Margaret Wappler’s wholly original, nearly unclassifiable, and undeniably brilliant novel Neon Green straddles a balance between science fiction and family fiction (or is it family science?) like no book I have read in recent memory. The somber story set in 1994 of a family in an idyllic Illinois suburb whose lives are upended by the appearance—and subsequent residency—of a mysterious spaceship from Jupiter in their backyard, a dubious “prize” won in a sweepstakes, may sound like a perfect Twilight Zone set-up, but the book subverts any genre expectations about an impending alien invasion by turning inward. In the end, we care more about what’s happening inside the family than what’s inside the mysterious spaceship. Touching on environmentalism, liberal boomer idealism, 90s nostalgia, and government paranoia, and evocative of films such as “Take Shelter” and “Close Encounters”, Neon Green is often heart-wrenching, never condescending (especially in the finely rendered characters and teenagers), ultimately profound, and one of the best books of the year. A true original.

Neon Green: A Novel available now.

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