Cover of Attack of the 50 Foot Wallflower by Christian McKay Heidicker. The title character battles giant ants over a ruined city as people flee in panic

About the Book

Title: Attack of the 50 Foot Wallflower
Published: 2018

Cover Story: BBW
Drinking Buddy: Pass the Schlitz
MPAA Rating: Sexual situations, intense action sequences, cartoonlike violence, alcohol and tobacco use
Talky Talk: Far Out
Bonus Factors: 1950s Monster Movies, Fetish Fuel
Bromance Status: Film Club

Cover Story: BBW

Now she hardly looks like a wallflower, does she? Before Phoebe starts growing, everyone comments on how plain and unimpressive-looking she is. Of course, there’s something to be said for a tall woman. Incidentally, this scene really happens in the book, giant ants and all. Except in the book, Phoebe is wearing a bikini.

The Deal:

It’s the early 1950s. The world is under constant attack by ‘shivers’: blobs, fly-human hybrids, giant apes, saucer men, etc. Phoebe and her mother spend their life on the road, fleeing from disaster. You see, Phoebe’s father knows where disaster will strike next and warns his family.

Did I mention Phoebe’s father is a gigantic Titan in the sky that only Phoebe and her mother can see? And he sits in a recliner watching the chaos, with a mammoth remote control in his hand, ready to ‘turn off’ the earth if he gets bored. Meanwhile, Phoebe’s mother has vanished, evil scientists are chasing her, and Phoebe is starting to grow. And not just that early high school growth spurt either. She’s getting big.

And then things start to get weird…

Drinking Buddy: Pass the Schlitz

Two pints of beer cheersing

Phoebe has always been awkward. She’s not very attractive. She has to constantly move from city to city. Every time she gets close to someone, they end up devoured by giant ants or burned to death by a space laser.

But now she’s met a cute guy named Lear. She’s made a friend named Beth (who’s totally not a time traveler). She’s joined the Girl Scouts. Maybe things are turning around.

Except her mother has been kidnapped by mad scientists, the military wants to use her as alien bait, she’s rapidly outgrowing her clothes (and most buildings), and her father shows signs of wanting to change the channel. What’s a girl to do?

Lear’s father, incidentally, was turned into a vampire and killed by his own brother, which Lear explains in a graphic novel that’s included in the book. There’s also a cute puppy named Pan Cake and a clueless priest named Marsh, who thinks Phoebe’s condition is a punishment from God, but is determined to look out for her anyway.

MPAA Rating: Sexual situations, intense action sequences, cartoonlike violence, alcohol and tobacco use

Before Phoebe gets big big, guys begin to notice her short skirts (though they were ankle-length last week) and her long legs. She suddenly is surrounded by admirers, including Beth. On the other hand, she continues to grow, which provides logistical problems when your date only comes up to your knees.

The author does a good job of showing how nasty the 1950s were in terms of everything but the music. The local record store has a sign that says NO RACE MUSIC. When Phoebe tries to report her mother as missing, the pervy local sheriff tries to take her into ‘protective custody.’ When the giant ants are swarming, a general happily announces they’re headed for the Navajo Reservation, so the ants will eat Indians instead of people.

This book is only slightly less bizarre than the old monster movies it pays homage to.

Talky Talk: Far Out

I checked this one out due to the strange premise and because I’ve enjoyed the author’s other works. My wife, Sandra, asked me to tell her what I thought, as she’d tried to read it before and dismissed it as a bad acid trip.

I admit, I felt the same through the first hundred pages. But as I continued to read, things started falling into place. As the plot gelled, I begin to figure out the whole complicated mystery of Phoebe, her father, and their universe.

Then the book ended without really explaining Phoebe’s father, Beth’s cryptic remarks, Lear’s fate, and a bunch of other stuff. This doesn’t seem to be the first book in a series, and I was left feeling like I walked out of the theater fifteen minutes early. Which was too bad, because the book was crazy fun.

Bonus Factor: 1950s Monster Movies

All the ‘shivers’ that torment this world are clearly monsters from old horror movies: Invasion of the Body Snatchers, King Kong, It Conquered the World, Them!, Day of the Triffids, The Fly, etc. These are films from the days when there was no CGI. Every monster was the result of costuming and makeup. No sex or gore. Sometimes the filmmakers succeeded; sometimes they failed. But it was always entertaining.

Bonus Factor: Fetish Fuel

Deuce Bigalow with his extremely tall date

I’m not saying that as a teenager, I wanted to date a woman over ten times taller than myself. I’m just saying that that wouldn’t have been a deal breaker. You have to admit, the idea is slightly intriguing, as Phoebe and Lear discover. Of course, Lemuel Gulliver showed us the perils of that sort of thing during his voyage to Brobdingnag.

Bromance Status: Film Club

I liked you, in spite of your glaring flaws. We’ll go to the movies again, but we won’t hang out afterwards.

Literary Matchmaking

The Incredible True Story of the Making of the Eve of Destruction

For another book about 1950s movie making tropes that doesn’t really make sense, read The Incredible True Story of the Making of the Eve of Destruction, by Amy Brashear.

Scream All Night

Scream All Night by Derek Milman is a homage to those beloved old monster movies.

Cure for the Common Universe

Cure for the Common Universe is an excellent book by this same author.

FTC full disclosure: I received neither money nor movie tickets for writing this review.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.