Review: Welcome to the Slipstream by Natalka Burian

Summery/Cover Image for Publisher's Website
For fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak and Judy Gregerson’s Bad Girls Club, this is a deeply moving and exquisite novel about a girl traumatized by her mother’s serious mental illness, and the steps she takes to save her from destruction.

Bright lights, big trouble.

When Van arrives in Las Vegas at the upscale Silver Saddle casino with her mother—a brilliant businesswoman with fragile mental health—she learns that her mother assigned her a college student, Alex, to “babysit” her. Van is used to having to land on her feet—her mother and surrogate grandmother move from city to city all the time like corporate nomads, but she is not thrilled to have someone watching her now.

When Alex introduces Van, a talented musician, to an all-girl Sleater-Kinney-style band, she finally has a chance to let her guitar skills shine. But just as she’s about to play her first gig, her mother is lured to Arizona by a con man promising a “vision quest,” and Van must go on the road to find and save her mom from a self-help cult that could ultimately destroy her.

As I type my review, I’m torn between two opinions. On one hand, I liked Welcome to Slipstream. It was eccentric and fast paced, a book I easily devoured in one sitting. On the other hand, I was left feeling underwhelmed…wanting more - of Van’s story, of Van’s mother’s struggles, of seeing Van become her own person.

Welcome to Slipstream sets off to accomplish a lot. It’s a book about struggling with a family member’s mental illness, overcoming social anxiety, figuring out what home really is when you’re almost 18 and ready to spread your wings, falling in love for the first time, and pursing one’s dreams.

There was bad as well as good to this.

The good: I applaud and admire Natalka’s ambition in this novel. The wide variety of plot points here are ones that I not only highly enjoy reading about but also feel are incredibly pertinent topics in YA.

The bad: I felt that with so much going on, some plot lines were more developed than others, leaving me feeling underwhelmed. Also, I feel that some plot lines (the cult Van's mom joins, the stalking one of Van’s band mates was facing, the consequences of Van’s mom’s actions) were just ignored all together by the end.

Even with my problems regarding the plot, I did enjoy and come to love the characters.

Van has had a very unique childhood. Shuffled from town to town, country to country, Van has had very little time to make friends as well as connections. She's only ever had her mother and Ida, the women who is equal parts her "babysitter" as well as her mother's. From the first page, I was instantly taken with Van's voice. I found her to be funny, charming, and just the perfect amount of eccentric. I could easily relate to her feelings of social anxiety. I especially loved the bond Van had with Ida. It was equal parts friendship as well as grandmotherly, and I loved how easily these two could not only joke around with each other but also team up to make the best out of the worst possible situation. I wish I had an Ida in my life!

In all, Welcome to the Slipstream has good as well as bad to it, and if you can overlook the lack of plot development and instead focus on the main characters, you're bound to enjoy it! I look forward to seeing what Natalka writes next!

Grade: B-

Source: hardcover provided by publicist 

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1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a good coming of age story, but it's hard when the author tries to talk about too many topics. Most end up being only surface-level, instead of really deeply diving into one or two.


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