I had trouble getting into this book. It started off strong with action and suspense, but I didn't connect right off with Alex. It starts out with his family leaving him home alone while they go to another state to visit his Uncle. Then the worst happens [in realistic fiction, at least] and a Supervolcano erupts, causing widespread, nationwide disaster and panic. Enter the neighbors, some transient looters, and death and Alex hightails it out of Cedar Falls. But it wasn't really until the altercation with Target and his subsequent stay with Darla and her mother that I really started to feel anxious to continue. Overall I enjoyed the story, the characters, and the pace of the writing. I've decided to review this a bit differently than I've reviewed other books so I could better organize my thoughts on it. So I separated my thoughts into the two following categories:
Things I enjoyed:
~The characters were strong but also very human and flawed.
~Apocalyptic occurrence with no hint of being supernatural which allows for more of a chance
of ‘putting yourself there’.
~Alex knows how to spar but has never used his Taekwondo lessons as actual fighting mechanisms.
When he does what he needs to do his reaction (throwing up, shaking, etc) are very realistic since
he isn’t… wasn’t… someone who would kill someone else.
~“For the first time ever, I felt ashamed of my species. The volcano had taken our homes, our food,
our automobiles, and our airplanes, but it hadn’t taken our humanity. No, we’d given that up on our
own.” *I love this simple way of describing what is happening at the camp and all around. People
are starving & dying and the “helpers” aren’t actually helping and are, in fact, treating the
refugees as if they are wild animals and not human beings.
~I like how grateful Alex is for all the help he receives because he realizes that it’s hard to come
`by in the current circumstances. It leads him to help others as much as he can as well.
~I like that Darla is a strong willed and resourceful female counterpart to Alex. Between the two
of them they are able to survive in some of the more difficult situations. They save each other in
a lot of ways.
Things I struggled with:
~There’s not much character development in the very beginning so I wasn’t fully convinced Alex would
be the type of teenage boy to think things thru before tromping away in the ash. He was sullen and
video game obsessed which didn’t transition smoothly to survival-must-find-my-family teenage boy
~I realize that the circumstances/setting in the book is vastly different from the life I know and
live but the relationship between Darla and Alex seemed to escalate to “I love you’s” awfully
quickly. Are they really in love or do they just feel they need one another? I'm sure [hope] we
will find out in the coming novels.
~What 15/16-year old boy would turn down sex no matter what the circumstances?
~I’m not sure how I felt about the way it ended… after all the adventure and struggles to survive it
seems a bit anti-climactic to just wait. Despite the deal he made with his Uncle it still feels a
bit unlikely that Alex would simply… wait.
I've seen many people dub this a dystopian novel but at this point I feel it's far from dystopian - there's no organized 'government' forcing people to live a certain way and people accepting that it's a perfect world when in reality it's not. It is centered on an apocalyptic event - the world as Alex knows it is gone, this is true, but nothing has been done about it yet. It could lead to a dystopian future, but at this point I do not see it as that. It's a story of family, love, survival, strength, perseverance and determination.