Thursday, November 17, 2011

Middle-Grade Review: The Roar

For the past month or so, whenever I began reading a new book, my 17-year old son would say, “Mom!  You started another book!  You HAVE to read The Roar next!”  So I finally listened to him (sometimes kids know best) and recently finished The Roar by Emma Clayton, an action-packed dystopian sci fi novel for middle-grade and teen readers.  He was right – I absolutely loved it!

The Roar is set in London in the future.  An Animal Plague spread a deadly virus across the world and forced all remaining humans to barricade themselves behind The Wall.  To accommodate the population in such limited space, they built up instead of out.  Now, as you might expect, the wealthy and powerful live in the new, elite upper levels of London, with the poor masses crammed into dark, wet slums below or dismal towns filled with “fold-down” apartments further north.

Twelve-year old Mika leads a gloomy existence in one of those tiny apartments with his parents.  A year ago, his twin sister, Ellie, disappeared and was declared dead, but Mika knows in his heart that she is still alive.  The reader learns, on the very first page, that this is true, as Ellie attempts to escape from her captors.  When the government begins a new program to strengthen kids and launches a new battle-filled video game, complete with competitions featuring unbelievable prizes, Mika is suspicious of their motives but knows he must go along with the program if he hopes to find his sister.

It’s an original and thoughtful story, filled with action and suspense and cool technology, that moves along at a fast pace.  I stayed up way too late at night reading until I finished this book!  There is even an element of the paranormal here, in the amazing connection between Ellie and Mika that grows even stronger as the story progresses.  Some elements (the game, for instance) reminded me a bit of Ender’s Game, though this is a wholly unique tale with its own twists and surprises.  My son and I both loved this novel, and it looks as if a sequel is in the works, so we have more to look forward to!

481 pages, Scholastic

NOTE:  The publisher says the book is appropriate for ages 9 and up, and I do think it will be popular with middle-grade readers, but it will also appeal to teens (and adults!).

If you like The Roar, you might also like Spacer and Rat by Margaret Bechard, another good sci fi novel that my son recommended to me.

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