A book series that I’ve been seeing around for years, and I’ve finally gotten to it! Gone is a staple of YA literature from when the age bracket was first starting to become prominent. Because it was considered to be more of a boys book I didn’t pick it up at the time (thanks mum) but I’ve seen it so often in charity shops since and had to pick it up and give it a go!
Within this book we follow 15 year old Sam, as well as a few others around the US town they live in. They’re just living their normal lives, going to school, trying to avoid the bullies, not getting on with their parents. Until in the blink of an eye everyone over 15 disappears. Suddenly it’s a world overrun by children. And shit breaks lose.
To start, as usual, with the negatives first. First up, fatphobia and discrimination of autistic people. There is rampant fatphobia throughout this book, which unfortunately was very common in YA books at the time this was published (in 2008), with the bad characters being stereotyped as larger and the main protagonists not having their size mentioned at all. One of the main characters younger brothers is autistic, and the discrimination against them is heavy. There is some that is noted as bad within the book itself, although the r-word is printed on page and most people don’t speak up. However, there are also aspects of his portrayal which are harmful against autistic people. There’s one instance I can think of which is built into the plot itself and made me uncomfortable. I’m not autistic however, so I would look for own voices reviews to know more on this.
One last negative is about the author. I don’t know much about this at all, as in nothing. But. I’ve heard he’s an awful person. A cursory google search suggests that this is mainly in regards to his views towards disabled people being burdens (which is fucking bullshit), but there may be more there as well that you might want to look into. This is something that I need to look into myself as I really enjoyed his Messenger of Fear novels and had intended to purchase the third book in the trilogy.
Now. Onto the positives! This was a really fun book! At the beginning I wasn’t that invested, most likely because I’ve seen this concept done before (thank you CBBC for the amazing Sparticle Mystery series!) so the set-up wasn’t interesting, I’d seen it done before. If you haven’t then it would probably be more interesting for you! But once it got into the action, getting into the specifics of each characters plight and their specific aims and intents whilst the adults were gone (as well as their reactions to turning 16), this was where the book really turned around for me. I was completely invested, rushing through the end half of this book and I was gripped for each twist and turn.
This is a standard last 00s YA dystopian so definitely take that into account if you’re going to pick this up. To be quite honest, other than the fomo there isn’t really any reason to pick this book up over many others that don’t have these problematic elements. But I totally understand fomo so no judgement there. I’ll be picking up Hunger, which is book 2, already sitting and waiting on my shelves. I don’t know if I’ll read any further into the series though. It all rests on book 2!