Especially in the opening and closing chapters, Bourgault, making his debut, deftly balances the novel’s mix of coming-of-age literary fiction with its exciting supernatural and suspense elements. Scenes with Billie are both charming and unsettling, as Justin at first refuses to ask hard questions about this strange little girl who knows so much about him. The answers to just who and what she is, when they come, are inspired, not settling into any genre convention. She’s an original, like the book itself.
The novel’s middle passages can feel protracted, such as chapters covering the aftermath of a strange accident or a trip to the American Southwest. The Perpetual Now is long, and at times feels like it, though its central mystery and relationships are compelling, and the prose is touched with unfussy observational poetry. “Ferguston sometimes felt like a war-torn city where all the buildings were left standing,” Bourgault writes, capturing a rich sense of place in a line.
Takeaway: A smart, heartfelt novel blending speculative and coming-of-age fiction.
Comparable Titles: Graham Joyce’s The Tooth Fairy, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A