I wanted to nail this one, and I don't think I did -- just so I'm clear -- you want to read this. Any of your kids over 13 (and maybe some under) will likely enjoy this. Don't be put off by the labels attached: "Post-apocalyptic," "YA," or whatever -- this is a good story about kids in the nearish future. This originally appeared on my blog as part of a book tour -- which you should check out :)
I'm going to get this quotation wrong, so remember it's just a paraphrase: William Gibson's early works were said to be set "Fifteen minutes into our future" -- they're futuristic SF, but only barely. Using that as a basis, I think you'd be safe saying that this book is set 20 minutes into our future -- when Gibson's cyberpunk present falls apart. Yes, it's technically post-apocalyptic, but so is The Sword of Shannara, but that doesn't mean you can walk in with any idea of what its' going to be like. Think of this as a fantasy world very much like our own (but with cooler accents) -- but where almost nothing works and teenagers are threats to their own health and safety, but also to pretty much the entire world's health and safety.
We meet the twins Arika and Narrah just as Arika is beginning her time in the Changeland. Which is a stressful time for everyone in her life -- but her brother Narrah does something quite out of the ordinary, he takes advantage of their inherent psychic link and enters the Changeland with her. By doing so, they set down on a path that could change the world forever. Not that they knew this. These aren't a couple of Promised Children, Children of Destiny or whatever -- they're just a couple of kids in the right place and the right time to become the Children of Destiny. Arika's the strongest character, the best fleshed out and it's her reactions to everything that inform the readers'. Not to discount anyone else, but it's her fears, her hopes, her determination that set things in motion (even Narrah will defer to her). Before I leave Arika -- her friend, who I see as a combination of Luna Lovegood and Sybill Trelawney, but far less chatty -- is such a great character. She'd have been easy to use wrongly, but Flynn gets is just right. She's very likely my favorite part of the whole book.
While in her Changeland, Arika finds an enemy and Narrah finds a potential ally. Both show up later when Arika returns the favor and comes to Narrah's rescue in his Changeland. It's really kind of hard to describe, read it yourself. His is radically different and more hazardous -- as are the conditions he finds himself in. I don't want to get into the story beyond that, but let me just say that nothing in the story worked out the way I expected, and I'm so glad for it. The novel ended in such a way as to be initially dissatisfying, but with just a little thought, it was perfect -- you don't want more than you're given, really -- it seems like you do, but after a little time and thought, you get why he doesn't the way he ended it the way he does, and actually end up pretty satisfied with the whole novel.
Oh yeah, there's this great part that turns out to be a description of Echolocation. That was cool -- I know I was wearing a big grin for a few paragraphs once I figured out that's what was going on. That's just an aside and your results my vary, but I really dug that scene. Almost as nifty are Narrah's new abilities, and I'll just leave it at that.
Flynn gives us clear, well-defined, and distinct characters here. I can't say that I got too emotionally attached to any of them -- but I was very curious about all of them. I imagined more of what life was like for the twins and their friends growing up in their circumstances, what made the various people who left their settlement do so, and just what might happen after the book ends. At the end of the day, these are people you want to see succeed, even if you don't have that big emotional bond with them.
Once you get your bearings (which took a little longer for me than it should've, I think I had an off day), you can really get into this world and get an idea how things function (or don't) on the Australian continent -- and you can guess what's going on in the rest of the world, too. Between the powers, the hard life and the machinations of the leaders -- there's plenty going on to keep you turning the pages -- some is exciting, some is rich in imagery, some is tense and all is entertaining.
A heckuva debut novel -- I can't look forward to more enough.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my participation in the Book Tour and my honest post.