The Roar

0-439-92593-2

Author: Emma Clayton

Publication: 2009, Chicken House

Pages: 481

Overall Rating:  bth_45_zps06f87659[1]                      

Rating for Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Ellie and Mika are twins who live behind The Wall – a fifty high structure that cuts off Northern Europe, Northern Russia, and Canada from the rest of the world.  It was built in the years following the animal plague to protect the survivors, who now live in an overcrowded world of concrete, floodwaters, poverty, and protein food pastes.  Ellie disappeared a year ago and everybody but Mika believes she is dead.  But Ellie is very much alive, kidnapped by the government for a secret training program.  Mika will do whatever it takes to find her – even entering the deadly Pod Fighter competition.  But the government is planning something sinister, and even Mika is not prepared for the secrets he will discover.

Age of Main Character: 12

What I Liked the Most: Clayton’s descriptions of life behind The Wall are frighteningly vivid and real.  It’s a place where the lucky ones live in dank, fifty square foot fold-down apartments, where mold, dripping water, bad food, and cold are a basic fact of life.  Unlucky millions are relegated to The Shadows, the old city of London that now exists in endless darkness beneath the shining new city, the Golden Turrets, where the rich live in sunshine and happiness.  It’s a world where no one has ever seen a living animal – and where even rumors of such a thing drive people mad with fear.

The Pod Fighter competitions are a central part of the story, paving the way for a real Pod Fighter battle later in the book, and they’re very well done.  Fast, exciting, and endlessly inventive.  Reading them, it was easy to feel like you were in a pod fighter – streaking across the sky at unbelievable speeds, with laser blasts scorching your wings.  Good stuff.

What I Liked the Least: There’s a secret the government is protecting.  We learn about its existence early on, but don’t discover what it is until near the end of the book.  I won’t go into any details other than to say it involves government deception on a mass scale.  I didn’t buy it as something the government was actually capable of pulling off.  And given how central the secret is to the entire story, it put a real damper on my enjoyment of the last 25 pages of the book and made me question some of what I’d already read.

How Good was the Action? Much of the action takes place in the pod fighters.  There are a few other action scenes sprinkled through the story, but the pod fighters are the real heart of the action and Clayton does a fantastic job of bringing these battles to life.  As I said before, when you’re in the middle of a good pod fighter scene it’s easy to feel like you’re watching it in IMAX, when the fighters blazing past each other and laser fire eating up the sky.

How Engaging was the Story? It was easy to get caught up in Mika’s character, his desperate search for Ellie, his growing sense that he’s getting in way over his head.  He knows the pod fighter competition is more than a game, he knows it’s dangerous and perhaps even deadly, but he also knows that winning is the only way to find his sister.  That sense of hopeless desperation drives the story forward it makes it very hard to put down.

Profanity: Minimal to none.

Sex: Two of the characters share an occasional kiss, but nothing more.

Violence: Yes.  There is blood and people die, though it’s not graphic and generally not very close at hand – just something we know is happening.  But there are some fairly frightening scenes with the clear potential for violence, and there are a couple scenes of mental – not physical – torture.

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