Recommended for ages 14+
The Young World takes place in a post-apocalyptic New York City. A sickness has wiped out young children and adults, leaving only teenagers to fend for themselves in this new world. When you turn 18, you develop the sickness and die, too. Jefferson, left in charge of the Washington Square tribe once his brother dies, sets out with key members of his group to find information on what caused the sickness, hoping to find a cure. The trip will take them throughout New York City – and other tribes that are dangerous in their own right – and beyond, as they discover secrets and experiments that lead to the rise of the Young World.
It’s an interesting take on the post-apocalyptic genre. Author Chris Weitz knows how to stage a teen story: he’s directed films like Twilight: New Moon, American Pie, and About a Boy. He has a good grasp on the teen voice, and the novel itself is told effectively in alternating first-person narratives between Jefferson and his childhood friend and would-be love interest, Donna. In a world where kids and adults are dead, teens – at a tumultuous time of life to begin with – are left to forge ahead on their own. We see different social classes and races handle things very differently, and the factioning of Manhattan, particularly Grand Central, is fascinating. The characters are well-developed, each with his or her own distinct voice. Secondary characters, particularly Brainbox – the brains of the Washington Square tribe – are nicely fleshed-out through Jefferson’s and Donna’s eyes. I felt that Donna struggled a bit to find her own voice, but hits her stride mid-novel.
The story reminds me of 12 Monkeys meets The Warriors. (This is a good thing; I love both of those movies.) I’m interested in seeing where the next book – The New Order, publishing this July – takes things.
Check out more about The Young World at Little Brown’s page.