The Young World


Author: Chris Weitz

Publication: 2014, Little, Brown and Company

Pages: 373

Overall Rating: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Rating for Action: bth_5-star-rating_zps467d5332[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: A horrific disease has wiped out every adult over 18 and every child under 11 on the planet.  Only the teens have survived, because of a quirky relationship between the disease and hormone levels.  But they too die as they age, and they can’t have children.  In short, the human race will be gone in a few short years, and everyone knows it.

The remaining kids have banded together for survival.  Jefferson, Donna, Brainbox, Peter, and SeeThrough are part of the Washington Square tribe in New York.  But when Brainbox stumbles across a clue about the disease, the five of them set off into the unknown to find a cure.  Their journey across the wilds of New York will lead them into pitched battles with gun-toting hippies, cannibals, and an ultra-violent militia before forcing them to brave the underground terrors of the subway – all in the search for a way to save humankind.

Age of Main Character: 16

What I Liked the Most: Weitz makes full use of the setting – The New York Public Library, Grand Central Station, Union Square, the subway system – but all transformed in unexpected and intriguing ways to fit with a post-apocalyptic environment.  Union Square is filled with hippies who spend all day and night drumming, pausing only long enough to unleash hell on anyone stupid enough to pass through their territory.  Grand Central is a massive bazaar where you can buy anything from bullets to coffee, replete with restaurants, night clubs, and a cage fighting arena in the basement.  And the subway – that’s home to the mole people.  Weitz has taken each nook and cranny of New York and given it its own special vibe, its own unique brand of inhabitants.

But what I like most here is the way Weitz delves into the question of what happens to a society when there truly is no hope.  In most post-apocalyptic worlds, no matter how bleak, there’s still some small ray of hope – some form of society struggling to survive amidst the chaos.  But here, there’s nothing.  No matter what the kids do, no matter what kind of society they try to create, people are on the way out.  Ever year more kids turn 18 and die, and no one is coming up to replace them.  Five more years and everyone on the planet will be gone.  Knowing that, it’s fascinating to look at how people react – some falling prey to hedonism and violence, living only for the moment, some turning to cultish religion, and some few still struggling to build a world worth living in.  Weitz forces them all together – usually clashing, and occasionally cooperating.

What I Liked the Least: The ending.  It’s a cliffhanger, which in itself is not a problem.  The problem is that during the last twenty odd pages of the book things suddenly got very confusing, as though Weitz were trying to create some last minute mysteries to draw me into book 2.  But instead of getting me more excited, it just left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied and uncertain, and that’s not good.

How Good was the Action? Awesome!  The cage match is a rough and tumble affair with broken bones and blood aplenty, and the gun fights are frenetic, filled with terror and a blaze of bullets.  There’s even a fight with an enraged polar bear that is freaking insane.   Chris Weitz has previously written for the big screen, and that experience clearly shows through in his action scenes, which come across very much like a Daniel Craig or Jason Statham movie put to words.

How Engaging was the Story? There are five main characters, but the chapters alternate between telling the story from the first person POVs of Jefferson and Donna, whom Weitz has given very different voices and perspectives.  Jefferson, the hopeful, naïve, philosophical, educated, and courageous leader of the group, and Donna the flip, tough yet vulnerable, streetwisesoul of it.  Those alternating perspectives give us two unique views on everything that happens in this crazy post-apocalyptic New York, and on the twists and turns of their almost impossible search for a cure.  Did it suck me in?  Did it engage me?  Hell yes.

Overall Assessment: A dark, violent, yet ultimately hopeful leap into a hellish post-apocalyptic world where the future of humanity is dead.   At turns frenetic and quietly philosophical this is a must read for any fan of dystopian fiction.

Profanity: Yes.  It’s not on every page, but Weitz certainly doesn’t shy away from profanity where appropriate.

Sex: Yes.  There’s kissing, a bit of making out, mild descriptions of T&A, sexual language, and some fantasizing.

Violence: Absolutely.  This is the apocalypse and people have turned crazy and desperate.  There are shootings and beatings galore, a cage match, plenty of broken bones and knife wounds, and main characters do get killed.  It’s not unnecessarily gory, but it is realistic and blood will flow.

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