Every Mountain Made Low
Author: Alex White
Date of Publication: 3rd November 2016
Synopsis: An orphan girl is trying to make a living in a dystopian future world – the twist being she is autistic and finds social interactions unbearable. Oh, and she can see ghosts.
This book was provided in exchange for a fair review. My thanks go to Alex White, Rebellion Publishing and Netgalley for the opportunity.
If I were to try to simplify Every Mountain Made Low, I might say that reading this book is like being submerged in a very cold, very deep vat of water, without any warning, and without knowing how to swim. Be warned now – I wouldn’t necessarily recommend someone read this book for pleasure. It isn’t a beach / poolside paperback. This is some heavy stuff. I’m talking dealing with disabilities, sexual assault, murder, torture…not exactly story hour topics.
Saying that, I really liked this book.
I am always banging on about trying to find something different in the fantasy / sci-fi genre. Well this is certainly different. I found Loxley to be an incredibly compelling heroine – possibly because her autism made her very unpredictable (ironic, perhaps, considering how important predictability and routine is to those with autism). I’ve never read a book in this genre where the main character had learning difficulties and I found the view Loxley gave me as a reader simultaneously painful and fascinating.
Loxley learns a lot of lessons throughout the book. She has to grapple with the idea of bad people being able to do good things (Officer Crutchfield) and good people doing bad things (Nora). She has to explore her sexuality (spoiler; not only does Loxley have autism, she is also gay) and come to terms with the fact that her recently deceased Mother didn’t know everything about the world. All this surrounds a plot centered around vengeance against a religion-obsessed kingpin, determined to overthrow this version of the Government and unafraid to kill those who get in his way.
Her autism not being enough to make her different – Loxley can also see ghosts. These spirits are hideous shades of their former selves, desperate to touch her to regain some sensation of being alive again. If they touch her she suffers crippling pain and, in some special cases, they become a part of her. There was a point at which I wondered whether the seeing ghosts thing was actually all in her head, and that she was actually just experiencing schizophrenia and developing alternate personalities to deal with the trauma of what was going on in her life. However White’s writing seems to definitely point to the ghosts being real – giving her knowledge she couldn’t possibly know when they meld with her. This ability helps her unravel mysteries and brings her to the attention of both the good and the bad – changing her carefully structured life irreparably.
White writes Loxley in a way which I think is uncomfortable and yet also relatable. Having a family member with autism myself, I could see the traits written as being authentic to many autistic people. All signs and symptoms are different, depending on the person, but I found myself alternately being horrified by and enjoying her point of view. She’s not easy to love but she’s difficult to dislike too.
If I were to be critical, my only comment would be that, at over four hundred pages, the book felt just a little heavy. However with so much story to tell, it’s little wonder that the length is what it is.
I would recommend this to the fearless reader, aching for something fresher than the typical YA Fantasy fayre. Steel yourselves though – this isn’t an easy read. It is, however, a worthwhile one.