Welcome to the Wasteland. Where all the adults are long gone, and now no one lives past the age of nineteen. Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan’s post-apocalyptic debut is the first of a trilogy in which everyone is forced to live under the looming threat of rampant disease and brutal attacks by the Variants —- hermaphroditic outcasts that live on the outskirts of Prin. Esther thinks there’s more to life than toiling at harvesting, gleaning, and excavating, day after day under the relentless sun, just hoping to make it to the next day. But then Caleb, a mysterious stranger, arrives in town, and Esther begins to question who she can trust. As shady pasts unravel into the present and new romances develop, Caleb and Esther realize that they must team together to fight for their lives and for the freedom of Prin. Hardcover, 352 pages Expected publication: March 26th 2013 by HarperTeen
Three stars: A dystopian that lacks detail and world building.
Esther is tired of her mundane existence. She is bored by the endless hours spent scrounging for gas and other articles that go to Levi in exchange for food and supplies. Levi holds all the necessities for survival in a small fortified building known as the Source. He hoards all the supplies and doles them out to the surviving citizens in Prin in exchange for their hard work. Esther would much rather spend the day playing with her friend, Skar, a Variant. Their friendship is frowned upon as the people of Prin consider the Variants to be mutants and dangerous. Esther knows that their prejudice is unfounded, but when the Variants begin attacking the town, Esther is forced to reconsider her friendship. Can Esther maintain her friendship and survive the rugged life of Prin?
What I Liked:
- One of the aspects I liked the most about this book was the focus on prejudice and distrust of people that are different. In the small community of Prin, made up of teenagers and young children fighting to survive in a brutal world, everyone is focused mostly on day to day survival. Anyone from the outside or who is different is treated with scorn and mistrust. Esther is the only one willing to see beyond the prejudices and not only accept the mutant Variants, but also the eccentric, cat hoarding, Joseph as well as the outsider Caleb. Over time, the people in the community slowly learn to let go of those prejudices, mostly due to Esther, and by the end there is a hopeful note of tolerance in place. I liked that the people learned tolerance and thought it was a great message.
- Esther, was another character that I struggled with, but ultimately ended up liking by the end. She is a fourteen year old girl, who refuses to accept her responsibilities and assigned roles in the community, so she is always running away from her tasks and instead playing with her friend, Skar. Her older sister, Sarah, takes care of her by cooking and covering for her, but Esther has no appreciation for Sarah. I was frustrated with her lack of maturity when it came to her relationship with her sister and shirking her duties. However, Esther soon must pay a steep price for her actions, and consequently, she ends up growing and maturing far beyond my expectations. By the end, I had gained a new appreciation for her. I did like that from the beginning she was the one person in town who didn't buy into the prejudices.
- I was wavering throughout with my final rating for this one, and thinking it would be a two star book. I was expecting a cliffhanger, but I was so pleased to find that the book had a sound resolution and ended on a hopeful note that I ended up bumping up my rating because of that. It was so nice to be wrong about the cliffhanger.
And The Not So Much:
- This book had potential, but for me it ended up faltering and falling because of lack of detail in world building and explanations. From the beginning, the reader is thrust into this harsh world where some type of apocalyptic event has transpired and wiped out human society as we know it. The teenagers of Prin are in a daily fight for their lives as they subside in a world that is incredibly hot and poisoned. There are no adults and no one usually lives beyond nineteen years of age. Teenagers are living as adults, and bearing children that usually die. At no point is there an explanation for what transpired to reduce the citizens to this existence. Why is the world poisoned? What happened to the adults? I kept expecting some type of revelation but it never came. I can appreciate being thrown into a world where the characters live in a unforgiving world and they don't know they answers because this is the way their life has always been, but it was obvious that the people were not that far removed from whatever event had transpired. The first clue is that there are siblings, and I wanted to know what happened to their parents, since it was apparent they couldn't have come from the teenagers who were currently giving birth as the mortality rates were extremely low. Sarah can read and so she must have been educated by her parents. Ultimately, it was a big problem for me that the book does not bother to give any kind of explanation as to what happened to the previous society. Furthermore, details are scant on how the citizens are surviving. Where did Levi get all the supplies from were they always stored in that building or was it all from scrounging? Are there animals they can hunt, or are they poisoned? Why is the rain so toxic? I was increasingly frustrated by the lack of details and the poor world building.
- I struggled with Levi. It didn't make sense that as a twelve year old he had the foresight to seize power and control and lord over the small community of Prin. Furthermore, how would he even have a clue about the water supply, supposedly he read a book, but I just didn't buy into his character at all. Also how was he smart enought to build such a strong fortress complete with electricity? It just seemed too far fetched for me. Once again, I was wondering what happened to the parents, and why he was abandoned.
- I was expecting more as far as the Variants, the hermaphrodites. The idea of them was exciting and fascinating, but there is so little information on them. You don't even have a clear understanding of their society and how they choose what sex they want to be. You don't even know if they are descended from humans or are some type of mutant from whatever apocalyptic event transpired. It was disappointing to say the least that there wasn't more information on these people.
Wasteland was a book that started out with a lot of promise. I enjoyed the harsh, desolate landscape and brutal conditions that the people had to overcome to survive. In the end, I could not get past the poor world building and so the book was a miss for me. It did earn another star because I enjoyed that there was tremendous growth with the main character and that it ended without a cliffhanger. I cannot say that I would recommend this book unless you are reader who doesn't mind being tossed into an apocalyptic environment without detailed world building. This book had potential but it wasn't a good fit for me.
"How can you hate someone you don't even know?"
"You know what I think is sad?" said Sarah, almost to herself. "That boys say anything they want just to get something. And girls always believe them."
"Make a bad thing into a good thing."
"Friendship," Levi mused. "That's just business mixed with sentiment. Two people at the same level....if they're of service to each other, they call each other 'friend'. But if they aren't equals, the whole idea is impossible. It can't exist."
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.