WIRED’s Ultimate Reading List for Summer 2021: Books for Children and Teens

by Anthony Cleveland

13-16 years

Extraterrestrials. Drugs. Government secrets. A podcast host obsessed with UFOs and armed with guns. The impending planetary catastrophe. When we superimpose the elements of Anthony Cleveland and Antonio Fuso Star Watcher, they sound like the hot topics of a conspiracy theory subreddit. Indeed, the same all-is-possible energy that feeds these corners of the Internet also sweeps over the first pages of the graphic novel. In one case, a group of children enjoy a night out, in the next, BBRRRUUM, giant letters cover the stage and friends are transported to a water tower. Moments later, Kenny, the youngest of the group, falls from the structure after literally reaching for the stars. The others aren’t quite sure what happened, but Kenny firmly insists that the “people of heaven” took them. Much to the horror of his friends and family, Kenny’s infatuation with aliens turns manic. He is never the same.

Fast forward 20 years, and Kenny is once again the subject of the group’s attention. This time, however, he is missing. His sister Shae brings the friends together on a quest to find him, setting off a journey that pings the characters between confrontations with the US government, an alien life force, and the most painful events of their past. Star Watcher is two part science fiction and one part horror, with a dash of mystery. Cleveland’s narrative moves with vigor, and Fuso’s vivid noir-style artwork matches the story’s tenacity at every turn. Star Watcher is a fast read, but it is also a slow burn. Like a computer trying to process a large file, I spent the days following the end of the book thinking about every point of the plot. In the end, however, I keep coming back to the first thing I felt as I finished it: utter bewilderment. –Paul Sarconi

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