Knopf Books for Young Readers
Published June 7, 2022
About Before Takeoff
The Sun Is Also a Star meets Jumanji when two teens meet and fall in love during a layover-gone-wrong at the Atlanta airport in this thrilling new novel from the author of Let’s Get Lost!
James and Michelle find themselves in the Atlanta airport on a layover. They couldn’t be more different, but seemingly interminable delays draw them both to a mysterious flashing green light–and each other.
Where James is passive, Michelle is anything but. And she quickly discovers that the flashing green light is actually… a button. Which she presses. Which may or may not unwittingly break the rules of the universe–at least as those rules apply to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta.
Before they can figure up from down, strange, impossible things start happening: snowstorms form inside the B terminal; jungles sprout up in the C terminal; and earthquakes split the ground apart in between. And no matter how hard they try, it seems no one can find a way in or out of the airport. James and Michelle team up to find their families and either escape the airport, or put an end to its chaos–before it’s too late.
The first book by Adi Alsaid that I read is WE DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS. I loved that book, so I knew as soon as I saw this one that I really wanted to read it. Between that and the comparison to Jumanji, I built pretty high expectations for this story.
And… those expectations were met one hundred percent! I loved the weirdness of the airport and all the bizarre things that kept happening. I loved James and Michelle and the way their relationship developed.
The story is told in an omniscient point-of-view, where the narrator zooms in and out of different characters and situations. Normally I’m not a huge fan of that style, but I feel like Alsaid uses it SO WELL in his writing. That feeling of zooming in and out and following different characters all feels perfectly timed and adds so much depth to the storytelling. I love it.
If you’re looking for a book that takes a sideways look at humanity, or dives into the weird ways people react in a crisis, or simply a sweet, unexpected romance that blooms in the center of chaos, this book is absolutely not to be missed. I love so many things about it. This is definitely one that I’m going to pester my friends to read so I have someone to talk about it with!
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
James is Latino. Michelle is Asian.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat frequently.
Kissing between boy and girl. In one scene they remove their shirts.
Strange events take place at the airport. Snow and rain fall. Fissures open. It’s unclear what governs those events.
Violent Content – content warning for racism.
Some people trapped in the airport become violent. A man confronts another man, using slurs and threatening him.
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