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Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Young World by Chris Weitz

Title: The Young World
Author: Chris Weitz
ISBN: 9780316226295
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Released: July 29, 2014
Page #: 374
Source: ARC from the publisher

"After a mysterious Sickness wipes out the rest of the population, the young survivors assemble into tightly run tribes. Jefferson, the reluctant leader of the Washington Square tribe, and Donna, the girl he's secretly in love with, have carved out a precarious existence among the chaos. But when another tribe member discovers a clue that may hold the cure to the Sickness, five teens set out on a life-altering road trip to save humankind.

The tribe exchanges gunfire with enemy gangs, escapes cults and militias, braves the wilds of the subway and Central Park... and discovers truths they could never have imagined."
First Lines: (Quoted from the galley, please see final version for edits.)

"It's another gorgeous Spring day after the fall of civilization. I'm doing my rounds, following the path that winds through Washington Square park, like a warped infinity sign."
Page 1

I was really excited to get my hands on this book - it's so firmly in my wheelhouse, it's freaky.

Jefferson has taken over leadership of the Washington Square tribe. Often the various tribes have to fight over space and resources - and they are no exception. One of their members thinks he knows how to cure the Sickness, but he needs to make it to a different territory to find the research. They get together a group and set out on a mission to save the world. Along the way, they encounter more obstacles than you can even imagine.

As I said, this book is firmly in my wheelhouse. Dystopian, teens are the only ones who don't get the Sickness, making tribes for themselves... learning how survive this new world. I'm down for all of that. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that this book does it the best. I think the concept of having it set in Manhattan - a place that has the potential to be completely cut off from everything else - is kinda cool. Things are sort of sectioned off there already, so it's easy to imagine how things would break down in the event of a disease wiping out most of the people like this.

But here's my big question... If people don't know New York very well, will they be totally lost while reading this story? Luckily, I lived there for a while, so I have a mental map of the island. So I wonder if people who don't know are sort of lost when street names and some visual markers are mentioned. And does it matter? I had a little trouble following their entire time in Central Park because I was picturing different things than what the author was saying. It was a little frustrating because those details seem to make a difference.

Another over-arching theme that had me concerned was the racism aspect. They said that when the sickness took away the adults and tribes were being formed, there were areas that completely decided to exclude certain races. Like... the Upper East & West decided to push people up into Harlem... I just have a hard time swallowing the idea that people would actually do that. I mean, I get it in the context of the story. And, of course, the main crowd we follow treats it all very respectfully. But the entire idea that something like that would happen really bugs me. Yes, there are certain areas of NY that are completely one ethnicity or culture, but it felt almost like it shouldn't have been part of the storyline. Maybe something will come of it in future volumes?

So, all of our main characters are basically brilliant. They've learned how to deal with the Sickness in various ways - some through medicine, some through invention, some through leadership, some through fighting excellence. It's just like cream of the crop. But it's a little like the author uses their brilliance to say things that the average, everyday teen wouldn't. It felt a little like I was listening to the voice of the author, rather than the voice of the characters. The multiple mentions of the 50 Shades of Gray books seemed really out of place.

That being said, I really loved Donna. Her sarcastic take on life was amazing and I wanted to be her best friend. She took everything in stride and really seemed to find the humor in most every dire circumstance. I really liked her and sort of wish her POV was the only one we read. She also seemed to be the most down-to-earth in her way of viewing things... like how I would hope we would all see the world. The book seemed to lose a little steam when we went back to Jefferson's POV - who was dealing with a whole different set of issues.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't care about the awesome role the library played in this story. I mean, the fact that there is an entire cult that worships information? Fascinating! And I love that it became a destination of security and the key to finding the cure. And thank goodness they found the article they were looking for! I mean, could have been a disaster :).

All in all, I think this book is a solid story about teens trying to build their own society, but I don't think it's a go-to for this genre. There are many aspects of this book that are addressed differently and maybe better in other books. And I will say that the end seemed to stop at the spot when it really got interesting. I know you should leave the reader wanting more, but there was something about this ending that seemed to be abrupt.

Okay, so I'm obviously not going to make this as my highly recommended book for people getting into dystopian... but I think it might be good for someone who has read a lot in the genre. There are a few twists and turns to make things interesting and it's possible that the cliffhanger ending will really get people excited to read the next book. I think it's worth reading if your a genre fan, but I'm going to need to think long and hard about reading the next book in the series.
Other Blog Reviews:

Justin's Book Blog
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Libby Blog
Book Sp(l)ot Reviews
Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
The Book Bratz
The Founding Fields
Gizzimomo's Book Shelf

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