WHAT CAME FROM THE STARS is the fourth of Gary Schmidt's books that I've read, but the first that I've loved wholeheartedly. My reason for withholding complete admiration from the three previous ones is kind of complicated. See, I thought every sentence the man wrote was beautiful and brilliant. Completely. But when every single sentence made you stop and say, “wow,” it made it hard to get lost in the story. I felt frustrated, simultaneously bowing before the author's incredible skill, knowing that I’ll never be able to write half that well, and wanting to beg him, like a little kid, to get to the story.
Before opening WHAT CAME FROM THE STARS, I mentioned to a friend, “You know, one of these days Gary Schmidt is going to write something that will amaze me.” By around the tenth page, I decided this was it.
WHAT CAME FROM THE STARS is both the story of a far-off world, about to crumble under the forces of evil, and a boy in the sixth grade from Plymouth, Massachusetts, doing a little crumbling himself after his mother's death. In order to preserve all the goodness of their world, the great Valorim of that distant planet forge all their Arts into a beautifully-crafted chain and send it hurtling into outer space at the speed of Thought...only to be found in the lunch box of twelve-year-old Tommy Pepper.
So—why this book was so different. I think including the other-worldly perspective allowed the author to pour all his beautiful writing into a place where it perfectly fit. The style was delightfully Beowulf-ish (yes, I was one of those nerds in college who used to read Beowulf aloud). But—when he switched to Tommy's viewpoint, in order to emphasize the contrast between worlds, the lovely language dropped away. It rang completely true as the voice of a mostly-normal twelve-year-old kid, and I loved it. As the worlds began to converge, so did the language, allowing so much of the change to be felt by the reader rather than bluntly pointed out by the author.
Bottom line: very clever, very beautiful, very heart-wrenching, very humorous. Unless you really really really shy away from fantasy, you will love it.