Dee and her twin, Beth, split up when their parents divorced. Dee lives with their dad; Beth lives with their mom. Or she did, until Beth disappeared.

Now Dee and her dad are back in their old hometown, staying in their old house with her mom, doing what they can to help find her sister. Dee even enrolls at Beth’s school—reconnecting with an old friend, meeting Beth’s boyfriend, and joining the environmental club that was Beth’s passion. The club is trying to save the pinelands, an area of wilderness that Beth loved and that is now threatened by plans for an oil pipeline.

Dee finds herself drawn the pinelands, remembering how she and Beth used to go there as children. Could the place be connected to Beth’s disappearance? Certainly something strange is afoot in the shadowy forest. And the oil investor who is pushing the pipeline—there’s something odd about him, too. Dee may have more than one mystery to solve.

This is an environmental mystery with supernatural elements. There’s also a strong emotional component, as Dee deals with her parents fighting, her friends doing their best to help her but sometimes falling short, and missing her sister while also feeling that maybe she didn’t know her as well as she thought. Her search for Beth is fraught with danger from unexpected directions. Some people—and some mysterious creatures—are not what they seem. At the same time, Dee is attending school with her friends, which brings more ordinary concerns, like what to wear to prom.

The final book will be illustrated in full color, but the art in my review copy is almost all black-and-white. The use of color in the opening pages is a palette of sunset shades, smoky and textured, that fit well with the atmospheric story. The line art through the rest of the review copy is softly realistic, with a tendency toward full, even bulky shapes: oversized sweaters and bathrobes, voluminous hair, fluffy pine trees. All of it gives the sense of a story you could sink into.

The characters are distinctive, diverse, and expressive. The nonhuman characters are eerie and interesting. There are a few brief scenes when the supernatural elements are in play when it’s not entirely clear what’s happening, but it is possible that will change with the final, full-color art.

This story goes to some creepy and sad places. Very little violence is shown, but acts of disturbing violence are discussed, though briefly and not in detail. This, along with the emotional complexity of the story and the ages of the characters, pushes the book into teen territory, as noted by the publisher. There is also some technical complexity in the pipeline plot, which involves eminent domain and other concepts that might be better understood by teens than younger readers. There is no romantic or sexual content beyond one maybe-almost-kiss that Dee quickly shuts down.

Readers looking for an absorbing, moody mystery with a touch of the fantastic – or those interested in environmental activism for teens—will enjoy Fly By Night.


Fly By Night
By Tara O’Connor
Random House Graphic, 2021
ISBN: 9780593125304

Publisher Age Rating:  ages 12 and up

NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16)

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries

    Reviewer

    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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