Valley and her brother Bo grow up in an isolated survivalist family somewhere in Montana. When their mother dies mysteriously, their father blames “Those People” and their black helicopters. As they get older, their father teaches them the family business building “messages” (bombs) for domestic terrorist groups and instills his survivalist paranoia in them. After their father dies, the teens must fend for themselves, until Valley decides to continue her father’s mission to its bitter end.
Black Helicopters starts with the present and alternates with chapters from Valley’s childhood. This narrative structure drew me in as I looked to her past to try to understand the present events and Valley’s motivations. Because Valley’s family and compatriots speak and think in survivalist code, readers have to decipher the ideas and create meaning. This short novel addresses serious themes of abuse, neglect, and death while providing a powerful look into the alternate reality of survivalist “society.”