What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World
By Henry Clark
LittleBrown, 2013

What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World is a children's science fiction novel, targeted, roughly, at 10-15 year olds. It is silly and lighthearted, but also a bit dark at parts. It is wonderful throughout.

Three friends (well, mostly friends, sometimes), River, Freak, and Fiona discover a couch sitting on the side of the road. Naturally, they sit on it. Naturally, they check the cushions for loose change. Naturally, they ignore the bloodstains. The couch is comfortable, but disappointingly the cracks between the cushions do not contain any great treasures -- a sock, a crayon, a weird coin. Further investigation, however, reveals that the crayon is actually a rare collector's item (they don't think to check on the value of the coin. It's that sort of book), and also the key to some dastardly industrial maleficence and possibly an interplanetary war.

Well, sort of. I'm not going to give away any spoilers, but basically, there are conspiracies and spies, mind control and clones, sofas and ottomans. It's all very exciting, and slightly more coherent than it sounds. There are also some deaths and domestic violence, calibrated appropriately for the age group (nothing more scarring than Harry Potter), and enough pre-teen angst to keep things interesting.

The tone of the book reminds me of Daniel Pinkwater, M.T. Anderson, or Mel Gilden, but with more complex plotting. It's peppered with science, pop culture, and literary references which give it an intellectual feel, while still maintaining an evil genius vs. crayon plot line. It is twisty and unpredictable, but uses clever foreshadowing to make things come together in exactly the way you knew they must. Also, the character development of the sofa is truly artful. It's my favorite children's/YA find of 2016 (yes, better than The True Meaning of Smekday), and I highly recommend it.

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