United By Pop received a free copy of Welcome to the Slipstream in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are our own.
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Title: Welcome to the Slipstream
Author: Natalka Burian
Overall rating: 4/5
Themes: Young adult, contemporary, mental health and family dynamics
Review: As the evenings are growing increasingly darker and the mornings more unbearably chill, I am desperate for anything that allows me to hold on to the last vestiges of summer. And I have found it right here, in ‘Welcome to the Slipstream’. Despite its sunshine setting, however, this book infringes onto darker themes and calamitous subject matters that make this simultaneously both a fun contemporary and a transgression into cimmerian fiction.
This is the story of Van. From the outside looking in, her life seems to be one of opulence and prestige. She travels the world and stays at the most exclusive resorts, as she jets with her architectural and business genius of a mother, Sofia. The truth, however, is that she is more her mother’s carer than the other way around. Ida was once her babysitter and surrogate grandmother, but now she assists in running this chaotic family of two and attempts to keep Sofia’s mental ill-health a secret from the illustrious clients she serves.
Van’s dysfunctional family have made their current home in a glitzy casino, situated in the heart of Las Vegas. And amidst the clink of slot machines and the mania of the casino tables, Van finally feels she has found her fit. Local boy, Alex, introduces her to a band in need of a guitarist and possible new friends, for the first time. But with catastrophic timing, her mother decides now would be the perfect time to join a new-age cult and abandon Las Vegas, her family, and her client for a vision-quest with a con-man, across Arizona. And Van is left alone to lure her home.
This differs from many novels dealing with mental health that I have read, as the insight comes from one close to the sufferer. This slightly removed perspective meant that the structure of decline could be accurately recorded and the authentic-feeling situations relayed honestly to the reader. The heavy emotion this subject imparted was dealt with in both the solemn manner that it required, but also with Van’s own unique and quirky voice. The reader was spared no emotion, and this was heightened by the often sparse and lyrical penmanship, that allowed for feelings to replace an overabundance of information and drew the reader into the characters, whilst allowing them to remain at a distance to view their story.
For a relatively quick read, this is a book that packs a powerful punch and seemed to incorporate a perfect blend of many different genre facets. The atmosphere of light-heartedness, associated with much contemporary fiction, infused this novel and worked towards alleviating much of the darker emotions that were later created. Sofia’s mental health added a measure of sorrow and seriousness. This gave the early fun plot-line a much-needed note of levity and worked to pique the reader’s empathy and connection with the characters. The spirit of adventure was evoked by Van’s solo mission to save her mother. Poignancy was delivered by the focus on the family dynamic. And all emotions were united by the ending. The truly unforgettable ending that made this a powerfully poignant insight into dealing with mental health, in the chaos of the modern world.