"Genre mashups," where an author takes two different genres or sub-genres--for example, romance and steampunk or hardboiled detective and science-fiction--are not exactly new, but they have become a hot topic lately. With her debut novel All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders has done something different, taking a character in a modern fantasy story and a character in a near-future, dystopian SF story and having their lives intertwine in friendship and romance, without mashing up the different genres they belong in. It's like if Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen lived in the same world and knew each other, but the magic and technology of their different genres never really mixed. If this doesn't sound like an easy thing to pull off in a novel, rest assured that Anders handles everything brilliantly and has produced a story that embedded itself in my heart and moved me like few novels do.
Patricia is an awkward little girl with no friends and a family who doesn't understand her. She discovers she has the potential to be a witch, if only she can figure out how to consciously work magic and cast spells. Laurence is an awkward little boy with no friends and a family who doesn't understand him. He's a science prodigy who dreams of creating artificial intelligence and designing spacecraft to take humanity to other planets. Patricia and Laurence don't immediately hit it off when they first meet, but they slowly become friends, growing closer and closer. Unfortunately, their friendship is tested by their unsympathetic families, school bullies, the clash between magic and science, and a rogue assassin from a secret society. By the time they reach adulthood they've grown apart, only to run into each other again and find their lives connected in ways they never expected.
All the Birds in the Sky is weird and quirky, funny, tragic, and smart. Anders is able to balance the weirder aspects of genre fiction with down-to-earth, very human emotions with terrific precision. This has jumped onto my list of all-time favorite novels, so enchanting and beautiful and moving!