“It’s another gorgeous spring day after the fall of civilization.” In The Young World by Chris Weitz, black humor, uniquely diverse characters, and a vividly descriptive contemporary New York setting help push this novel to the front of the post-apocalyptic pack.
It’s two years since a mysterious sickness killed all the children and adults – leaving the teenagers unaffected. At least, that is, until they mature and succumb to the sickness themselves.
With clear memories of life “before,” and struggling to live in the “after,” many of the teens have formed geographical tribes, banding together for protection and survival, and battling others for dwindling supplies of food, medicine and weapons.
Jefferson has recently taken charge of the Washington Square tribe, a motley assortment of teens once led by his older brother. When one of his friends discovers an article that could potentially identify and help cure the sickness, Jefferson leads a band of five on a dangerous trek across the city to that bastion of information, the New York Public Library.
Never has a library trip been filled with more explosions or gunfire. Frequent use of New York landmarks contributes to the realistic setting and, with just enough politics and pop culture thrown in, the book’s plot becomes uncomfortably plausible.
Told in the alternating voices of Jefferson and Donna, his childhood friend and secret crush, The Young World is a suspenseful science fiction and adventure story. The different tribes Jefferson’s group meets along the way are in turn appalling and enterprising, some even thriving in this new post-apocalyptic world. The group, of course, has to fight other teens when they cross territories, in addition to battling the wild animals and fearless rats.
There are also the rumors—of ghosts, mole people, and an elusive old man. How much stock should they place in any of that talk and how much are they willing to risk for an antidote? Plenty, it turns out. Lives are lost and courage sorely tested as the group encounters perilous twists and heartbreaking decisions before their quest concludes.
The first of a trilogy, The Young World ends rather neatly but tantalizes readers with a whole new conundrum to ponder. Look for this title to come out July 29th and hitting library shelves shortly thereafter. Highly recommended for fans of series like Quarantine by Lex Thomas, Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry, Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne, and Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. The pacing, short chapters, and action sequences make this a good choice for reluctant readers, too.
A fast-paced and absorbing read, I’m definitely on board for book #2.