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Black Helicopters

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  723 ratings  ·  186 reviews
A teenage girl. A survivalist childhood. And now a bomb strapped to her chest. See the world through her eyes in this harrowing and deeply affecting literary thriller.

I’m Valkyrie White. I’m fifteen. Your government killed my family.
Ever since Mabby died while picking beans in their garden — with the pock-a-pock of a helicopter overhead — four-year-old Valley knows what h
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published March 26th 2013 by Candlewick Press (first published March 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.38  · 
Rating details
 ·  723 ratings  ·  186 reviews

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Wendy Darling
I would venture to guess that a lot of readers are going to find this a very difficult book. It feels bleak, it feels hopeless, the language and structure are tricky, and it doesn't care at all if you like it. But man, is this short and devastating literary thriller packed with powerful emotion.

15-year-old Valkyrie knows only this: the Others can't be trusted, and only Da knows how to keep her and her brother safe. Miles away from civilization, they've carved out a strange and violent life for t
Feb 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

At just over 170 pages, Black Helicopters is a complex and dense work of literary fiction about terrorism.

The novel is constructed of carefully layered vignettes of the past and present, bound together with an overarching chess metaphor, narrated by fifteen year old Valley “Valkyrie” White, suicide bomber.

This is a challenging, bleak novel that is often uncomfortable to read. In order to comprehend how Valley has arrived in her present role as a weapon, Woolston endeavours to show rea
Jan 05, 2012 rated it liked it
This book is going to garner a lot of discussion. I read it three times before I felt like I had a grasp of what was going on.

15-year-old Valkyrie -- Val -- has had a hell of a life. If it can even be called that. Her mom was killed by the black helicopters when she was young, and her father went to great lengths to protect her and her brother from Those People thereafter. But Bo, her brother, had way more privileges than she did. He could actually go out. It was her job to stay hidden, to know
Lottie Eve
Feb 27, 2013 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars!

Black Helicopters is a brief novel that I have no doubt will puzzle a person a bit if the person just simple read it. There are hidden details that can be hard to spot-- even I don't really know if I truly understand the story that Black Helicopters offered. And I think that it was meant to be that way. I think that Blythe Woolston wrote this story so the reader could experience the feeling of being hallow, unsettled, and shocked.

One of the things about this book that surprised me is t
Aj Sterkel
May 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult
I feel conflicted about this book! It’s unique. It stars a teenage girl who decides to become a suicide bomber. I enjoyed the untrustworthy main character and the author’s attention to detail. I still have so many “Why?” questions! Stuff just happens without explanation. But, it’s definitely memorable. I can see myself rereading it.
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-star, young-adult
Black Helicopters is a messed up little story, and while it's imperfect, it's worth the read.

It's reasonably obvious from the synopsis that Woolston’s novel is about a suicide bomber, but that only touches the surface of the story. It's about conspiracy theorists. To me, it was also about how strongly a person's upbringing shapes them and how deeply embedded values that are taught at a young age can become. Since I don't think I've seen other reviews mention it, it's worth noting that Black He
Sam Musher
This book is incredible, but probably has a niche audience. It's very short and high-octane, so it might work well as a hi-lo -- but it flips back and forth between time periods and leaves a lot of open ends, so there might be some confusion. It's a "boy book" with a girl protagonist. The writing style feels middle grade, but it's tragic and bleak in a way that won't fly with most middle-grade readers of my acquaintance -- even the Hunger Games trilogy has a "happy ending" of sorts.

But who cares
Very well-written but deeply unsettling, this book does a far better job painting a disturbing picture of a young innocent raised by a delusional and paranoid father than did the film "Hanna." I hesitate to list this under "young adult" as it is definitely not for kids -- but the main character and writing style puts it firmly in that category.

I highly recommend this book if you don't require a happy, neatly-wrapped up ending, and it's short length means you can finish it in a day or two (if no
Helen Marshall
Mar 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: great-ya
Bleak and punchy. Dark. Incredibly moving. What an ambitious novel! -- if this one doesn't end up with a pile of awards I'll be surprised.
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Well written and thought-provoking. Also grim, chilling and thoroughly horrifying.
This is a fairly short but intense read - I finished it in almost one sitting. I thought the concept was really interesting. The narrator is a suicide bomber who wants the world to realize that there are black helicopters that have sinister intentions - the catch is that you as the reader don't know if what the narrator believes is actually true.

I love stories told by unreliable narrators, and this book certainly has one of those. How many books have you read that feature fifteen-year-old girls
Jan 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novella

This book… this book is… is…. stunning.

Or as I said when I was 50 pages in “Holy shiznat, friends. This book is breathtaking in it’s simplicity and intensity.”

Black Helicopters is probably the most captivating book I’ve read in a looong looong time. Now I’ve read decent books lately, but they are my typical genre YA fantasy/dystopia books. This book is neither and yet it will appeal to ANYONE who likes to read those. Keeping in mind that this is a dark book though! I am really struggling trying
Jan 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: great-ya
I love books with strong voices, and this is one of them. Valkyrie White is a teenage girl cut off from society and any influences but those she gets from her survivalist father. What's so powerful here is how reasonable and approachable her voice is. Valley is single-minded, but she doesn't strike me as crazy -- just the product of a twisted, dangerous world view. In her own way, she's heroic, though for all the wrong reasons and toward a hideous goal. Blythe Woolston is so skilled at getting u ...more
Dec 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I am in awe. This book arrived today. I picked it up just to look at it, but then read a page and couldn't put it down. This is one of those rare books: vivid, subtle, evocative, scary, wonderful, gritty, and brutally, beautifully real. It's brief, but I felt I knew Valley--she is so clearly portrayed here. I vividly saw where she went and what she did, what happened to her, and why. This is a case where less is more and the book's brief length is perfect.

I know this is a book I will re-read. It
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It's short, but it packs a huge, huge punch.

This is the story of Valkyrie--Valley--who is raised by her father in the woods of Montana, who is taught to be extremely suspicious of Those People (i.e., the general population) and paranoid about The Government. The story is told via flashbacks from the present to the past.

It's a fascinating read, not least because Valley is shaped into what she is in a way that is utterly secular--her father teaches her and her brother Bo to be survivalists and tru
Katie (Kitkatscanread)
This book was effing confusing, I tell you.
It kept me hooked, because the main character narrating left you in the unknown all the time.
I found myself asking questions that I never found the answers to.
Who and what are these black helicopters?
Are they really bad?
I did like it, but I didn't connect to it.
The ending was so strange, I literally spoke the words "what the hell" out loud when finishing the book.
I think this book will confuse a lot of people because how it is written.
I only wish thing
Feb 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Blythe Woolston is an unique author with a distinctive voice. Her stories never fail to astound me and "Black Helicopters" is no different. Valkyrie is the daughter of an extreme survivalist and is sheltered from the world. When she is let out into the world, it's as a suicide bomber. You feel the paranoia and the tension rise off of the page. The chapters (and the book) are short. It can be easy to breeze through this book, but it begs to be savored. Another winner from a truly talented author.
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it

I read this in one short sitting and I am still reeling from this novel.

The main character reminded me of Saoirse Ronan in the movie 'Hanna'. Tiny, blonde and completely dangerous.

This book will leave you with a million questions and will make you want to pick it up and read it again - hoping you will find a tiny piece that you missed the first time around that will give you an answer.

If you want to know how terrorists are bred, read this.

It's set in the US and the people are Americans but fringe-society, anti-government, Americans. These are the people that lived in the compound in Waco, or with that "polygamist" Jeffers.

Terrifying. Unfortunately, I believe this is all too real...

(I had this tagged as YA but as a mom, I wouldn't want my teen reading this. It's too graphic and has some very dark situations. Maybe only for very mature teens...)
Karyn Silverman
Jan 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, arcs, z2013-reads
Troubling and fascinating. Still mulling it over.
Nov 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary
What an intense story. Not perfect; but well worth the read. I hesitate recommending this to YA readers. Perhaps mature YA readers who have a firm grasp of reality.
Andrew Lynch
Apr 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya-lit
We are born, seemingly at random, into the social construct of our parents. Belief in that structure is almost inherent, its ways surrounding everything we do and become. What is it like to be born into an alternative society in modern America?

Blythe Woolston’s Black Helicopters takes a hard look at what one such scenario would look like for a young girl. Valkyrie White (yes, a name to explore against context) and her brother Bo are raised off the grid by their father, on the very edge of mainst
Lisa Lawrence
Jan 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Powerfully written in concise and direct language, just as one would expect from a teenager. I think it’s important for us to understand the indoctrination and viewpoint of people who have extremely different life experiences and beliefs than we do.
Chase Feirl
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was ok
I chose to read this book because it seemed very interesting. I was wrong. The book started off very nicely. It grabbed my attention with the first few pages. They were recording a video, and the main character, Valkyrie White, said the words, "I'm Valkyrie White. I'm fifteen. Your government killed my family." (Woolston 8). If that doesn't grab your attention, I don't know what does. Then, all that excitement went away. The book got very boring, and went on and on about a garden. It's obvious ...more
Lovey Dovey Books
Jan 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, ya-mystery
How often do we want to admit that our heroes or heroines are the bad guys? It's always been a struggle for me to view the main character as the one in the wrong or the one with any faults at all. Blythe Woolston really increases that struggle as she tells Valkyrie White's thrilling story. Black Helicopters chronicles what brings Valley to this present day with revenge on the forefront of her mind and a bomb strapped to her chest.

Black Helicopters is considered a literary thriller, mostly becaus
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teen
Valley’s mother was killed by the black helicopters while she was out in the garden when Valley was four years old. Raised by her father, she has been taught to hide at all times. There is a den in their house where she and her brother Bo can never be found. Valley knows above everything else that Those People will kill her without even thinking about it, just like a coyote. But now Valley is out of the house and on the road with explosives strapped to her and the trigger waiting for her to deci ...more
May 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: for-review
There was so much I loved about this book - it's snappy writing that flies at a break-neck pace, dangerous and very edgy characters, a thrilling storyline that had me constantly on the edge and the mystery and shockers that were lurking around every dark corner.

The downfall for me was the lack of details - I'm a bit of a stickler for in depth detailing and I found myself longing for more of a back round story, I needed to know the how's and whys but I suppose that's just a personal thing.

The sto
This book is extremely hard to rate because, even though it packs so much power in just 170-something pages that leaves you ragged and disturbed at the end, this book is not a very enjoyable experience. This is dark, disturbing and confusing. I read the last two chapters about 5 times and my brain still felt as fragmented as the story-telling in the novel. You get a sense of what is happening, you think you understand what was said, but the thing with this book is that it gets its power from wha ...more
Mar 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013, young-adult
Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston is a bleak, gut-wrenching book that evokes powerful emotions and confusion all at once.

The reader travels with Valley, or Valkyie, as her very small world grows darker and darker, and her dear brother transforms into someone she can barely recognize, and Those People gradually become more dangerous.

Valley's life is different from the mainstream child's life. She's has been taught to trust no one, to survive with few material possessions, to win the game she
Jenni Frencham
Jan 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
Girl lives with survivalist off-the-grid paranoid parents. Parents are killed. Girl and brother try to survive. Girl ends up wearing a vest with a bomb in it, for reasons we are never given, but is rescued by the same people she was trying to kill. Not enough information about the bad guys, whoever they were, and not enough about the girl for me to sympathize with her. This book is an epic fail along the lines of The White Darkness. Not sure why it's on a Best of 2013 list. ...more
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Blythe Woolston’s first novel, The Freak Observer, won the William C. Morris debut fiction award. She lives in Montana.

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“The mind knows only what lies near the heart.” 4 likes
“I’m Valkyrie White. I’m fifteen. Your government killed my family.” 2 likes
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