The number of post-apocalytpic young adult novels has exploded in recent years. It’s interesting how genres ebb and flow, and I certainly do my best to try to keep up with what’s popular reading with kids these days. A good friend of mine has a young son right now who is finishing up The Hunger Games series; when I asked him what’s next on his reading list, he drew a blank. Luckily for him, I had just finished the first book in the new Toxic City series from author Tim Lebbon, and I was happy to recommend it.
The book is called London Eye, and it takes place in 2021, two years after a horrific biological attack on London. The city of London has been walled off, keeping in those who somehow managed to survive. Some developed physical mutations that brought with them powers that might or might not be considered beneficial. Others were spared from the deformities of the chemical attack but developed hidden powers. The mutant survivors were deemed a threat to the rest of the world and now a security force patrols the city and its border, looking to capture survivors for experimentation.
Among those survivors stuck in London are family members of Jack, Lucy-Anne, Sparky, and Jenna. Jack’s mom and dad were unlucky enough to be visiting London at the time of the attack, and now he and his friends spend much of their free time trying to make contact with survivors and collect and share reports with the rest of the outside world about what’s going on inside Toxic City. Rumors and facts are mixed, but all manage to make their way out of London to those with family and friends who are now unreachable.
While there are rumored entrances into the city, Jack and the rest of the group have yet to make any attempt to enter… but then a mysterious woman named Rosemary shows up claiming to be from inside and offering to take the group back with her. She is at first untrusted, but when Jack is mortally wounded and healed by a touch from Rosemary, the group (along with Jack’s younger sister, Emily) decides to take the risk and follow her back to London.
During the trip to London, questions are asked. Lots of questions. Details about the virus (called Evolve) are provided as well as more graphic descriptions of the Choppers and their methods for dealing with the Irregulars, the name those with mutations and powers have given themselves. The kids know about Rosemary’s healing powers, but they meet many more Irregulars with even crazier powers such as Puppeteer and Scryer. They also pick up on whispers of Irregulars who seem to be preparing for a war against the rest of the world, led by someone named Reaper.
As the kids begin to meet more and more of the Irregulars, they are also hunted by the Choppers who have become aware of their intrusion into London. All of them begin to find answers about their family, but they are constantly being kept on the run and unable to grab a moment to ponder any of the secrets that are being unloaded on them. Big secrets. Good and bad secrets.
I often find that first books in a series tend to ask too many questions and provide too few answers. London Eye doesn’t suffer from that issue. Major questions are answered before the book’s end, including key answers about Jack’s mom and dad, Reaper’s intentions, and the mysterious roaming figure called Nomad. The 230-page book offers up just enough answers to encourage finishing it as well as a few twists and new mysteries to ensure that readers will want to learn more.
If you’ve got a YA reader who is looking for a good action adventure with a solid dose of mystery and mutations, they’re sure to enjoy London Eye. It’s a fast read, and that’s probably going to be the major complaint about the book as we all will have to wait anxiously for Book 2! (By the way, the title of the story comes from the location of the impact that released the Evolve virus — the attacker figures directly into the story, so pay attention!)
Note: London Eye, Toxic City Book 1 will be released on October 23, 2012. I’d like to thank Lisa at Pyr for getting me an early review copy.