A Coming of Age Tale with a Sci-Fi Twist
Coming of age stories are so nostalgic. They take you back to a certain place and time and remind you of when you were young (ahem younger). Author Kelly Anne Winsa sets up Robi’s Flying Saucer Drive-In to be such a tale. This young adult, science fiction hybrid is Winsa’s debut novel. Winsa based the novel on her own life experience of working in her parents’ drive-in restaurant when she was fourteen. A carnival used to arrive every fall like clockwork in the back lot. In her debut novel, Winsa gets to explore the actual life force behind the carnival – the people.
Fourteen-year-old, private high school freshman Saffron Wilson aka Spice Girl wants to go to Paris. When her parents buy Robi’s Flying Saucer Drive-In restaurant, she thinks it’s the answer to her prayers. Working there and saving money for her trip becomes her ultimate goal. In the midst of it all she meets a mysterious girl from the carnival that sets up shop by Robi’s, Clair, who she ends up having a fierce girl crush on. Clair is a mostly translucent-skinned, white blonde beauty with crimson lips that is from a place far, far away. She also ends up needing Saffron’s help. Winsa sets this tale in the fictional city of Antoninio. A place where the weird can become quite normal. Right in the beginning of the novel Saffron gets flashed by a pervert on her first day on the job. These odd out-of-nowhere moments happen from time to time in the book, but the author may have included them to remind you that this is no ordinary city.
The narrative shifts quickly in time flashing between Saffron’s present situation working at the drive-in and the previous summer when her and her 8-year-old sister Lily went to stay at her Aunt Arrosa’s house. That’s where they made an interesting discovery that, unbeknownst to them, ends up being the catalyst for the story. The character and setting descriptions are detailed enough to drive the story when the pace or tense may falter. Robi’s is described as a classic old drive-in restaurant that you would remember from your youth. These descriptions come complete with secret recipes like a famous bbq sauce made from the drippings of rotisserie chicken.
Other food descriptions come when it’s “Tomato Sauce Time” with her friend Cecilia’s quirky, Italian family. So be sure to grab a snack should you be susceptible to delicious food descriptions. Saffron works with the cook at Robi’s, Mrs. Imbeault, who is described as being anywhere from between 40 and 60-years-old which means you could picture her as your mom, or alternately, your kindly grandmother. She is the foundation of the restaurant and any scenes set there keeps the story warm and fresh (pun intended).
When Winsa isn’t tackling lavish descriptions or giving us clues leading us to discover exactly who Clair is, she is giving us the young adult part of the story. Saffron’s family dynamics, her friendships and her not-so-secret wish to be more independent play a huge role in the book. Saffron hates her name, resents having to take care of her little sister Lily, and finds her parents to be distracted and busy all the time. Her parents think their life with her is a team sport and Saffron wants to compete as an individual. She also has to juggle her old friends, Ceclia and Marty, with her new friend Clair. How she deals with these elements while at the same time helping Clair and discovering some people in her life may not be what they seem demonstrates the meeting of two genres in a natural way.
You Should Read If You Like: science-fiction, young adult, aliens (Area 51 type stuff), conspiracy theories
You Shouldn’t Read If You Don’t Like: teenage angst (Saffron whines and whines), flashbacks in time, rotisserie chicken or meat in general, anything coming of age-like
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