TITLE: The Devil's Alphabet
AUTHOR: Daryl Gregory
From the cover face with the upside down eyes, to the not quite ending, this book is a mystery, more conjecture and theory than hard facts. Thirteen years ago, the town of Switchcreek, Tennessee was struck by a terrible and confounding disease that killed a third of the population, mutating most of the survivors into one of three physical anomalies: those who experienced enormous growth to unprecedented heights, those who lost all their hair and became seal-like, and those who became abnormally obese. Paxton, a young teen when the "Changes" hit, was a "skip," one of the few not physically affected. His mother died, however, and his father became one of the obese "charlies," and after the quarantine on the town was lifted, Pax was sent away to live with relatives. Now an adult, living a dull, unambitious life in Chicago, Pax returns to Switchcreek for the funeral of one of his two best friends. Jo Lynn, who had become a seal-like beta, had been found hanging from a tree in her yard, a supposed suicide. But Pax and Deke, his other best friend and now a grotesquely tall argo, have their doubts. Back home after so many years away, Pax quickly discovers how much he's missed as more and more effects of the Changes manifested themselves.
This isn't the story of what happened in Switchcreek or why, although those questions are posed. Rather, it's the story of coping with such profound changes, how outsiders react to people who suddenly don't look human, how far people will go to live normal lives when normal doesn't mean what it once did, and the age-old question of what it means to be human. It's also the story of Pax trying to find his place in a world when he hasn't felt comfortable in his own skin since everything changed.
And it's the sort of book that makes me want a sequel. I want to spend more time with Pax and the people of Switchcreek. Gregory made me care about all of them.