The Monster Librarian Presents
Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction for Young Adults
Books where teens have to face surviving the end of life as we know it.
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey*New Review
Putnam Juvenile, 2013
Available: Hardcover, paperback, Audible, and Kindle edition.
The Others are coming. In five waves, they have been laying waste to everything we are and think of us as nothing more than annoying insects, or a disease that needs to be eradicated. The first wave crippled the world. The second obliterated much of it in a heartbeat. The third took much longer but left the most bodies in its wake. The fourth became a much more up and close encounter of the deadliest kind.
The fifth will end humanity - unless people can find a way to stave off extinction.
Cassie Sullivan is an average sixteen-year-old girl, ignored by the guy she has a crush on, who carries a stuffed bear and a Luger M16 everywhere she goes. Her family gone, she searches for her five year old brother, who was taken from her, leaving her holding onto his bear and a promise to never give up on him. This is her story - and a strong one. Cassie finds herself laid up, injured, in a farmhouse, nursed back to health by a farmboy who is the only survivor from his family. He seems like a dream to a girl who has never caught the eye of a good-looking guy, but he also harbors a secret.
Yancey also establishes a second narrative, told from the point of view of Ben Parrish, the guy who never knew Cassie fell for him. Ben was the high school kid everyone loved, and with good reason. He's a nice guy, good looking, and had the world at his feet--until the world was turned upside down. He finds himself inside a military base where the personnel "rehab" the wounded and displaced, yet nobody seems to be over 18-- except for the officers and trainers. When Cassie and Ben uncover what the 5th Wave truly is, horror grips them-- making for a fast-paced, intriguing YA novel that does not slow or falter.
While this YA novel is targeted to tweens and teens, there's very little that is juvenile about it. Rick Yancey has created a wondrous book will have parents fighting their kids for their copies and will likely find its way onto the big screen sometime soon. It might just be the best YA novel published since The Hunger Games.
Ashfall by Mike Mullin
Tanglewood Press, 2011
Available: New hardcover and e-format
I first learned of Ashfall in November of 2011, and I should have reviewed it long before now. It was chosen by more than one professional journal as one of the best young adult novels written in 2011, and I definitely agree with that, and now it has just been nominated as one of the Best Teen Novels Ever Written by NPR. I'm not sure I can agree with that- there are many, many quality books for teens, and the history of YA literature goes back for decades. I can say with certainty, though, that Ashfall does stand out from the crowd of apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, and dystopian fiction that has been crowding the shelves lately.
Teenage Alex is on the outs with his parents, who have left him home alone while they visit relatives in another state, when a supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park erupts, covering everything in huge quantities of ash, killing the ability to communicate over long distances, making transportation nearly impossible, and causing general chaos, despair, and violence (although there are still a few people working hard to survive and help others). In the face of this disaster, Alex decides to leave home and search for his parents. The general plot isn't all that original- there are a million disaster stories where kids and their parents journey through, or after, a disaster, to reach each other. However, the imagination, detail, character development, and matter-of-fact storytelling make Ashfall unique.
It's refreshing to find an apocalypse in YA fiction that doesn't include zombies or weapons of mass destruction, and it's clear that Mullin did research to create a storyline that reflected the effects of such a massive natural disaster on both the environment and on human invention. A detail I really appreciated was the early mention of Alex's tae kwon do skills, as it's common in similar kinds of books for characters to suddenly possess survival skills they have had no chance to learn. Characters were also drawn in detail and included in a natural fashion types that normally are presented as outside the norm, such as the gay couple in Alex's neighborhood that initially save him when the ash begins to fall, and Darla, a tough and competent teenage girl who rescues him (instead of the other way around). It's also interesting to see the way the relationship between Alex and Darla evolve on both an emotional and physical level.
Mullin's storytelling ability is evident, and I found enough meat in his book to read it more than once, It's a great coming-of-age tale, with enough action and adventure to satisfy adults. An original, compelling, and memorable novel, it's worth adding to any YA collection, and a great recommendation for readers of both genders who love a good adventure. Highly recommended for ages 15 and up. A sequel, Ashen Winter, will come out in October 2012.
Contains: violence, language, animal killings, gore, implied rape, mild sexual situations
Reviewed by: Kirsten Kowalewski
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