Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 02/01/2014 Gr 3–7—"When the rest of the world grew too hot, and cracked open in the sun, everyone came to live on this cold grey rock." In a future world that is largely without animals because of a terrible virus, 12-year-old Kester Jaynes, who hasn't spoken since his mom died, is called by the cockroaches to help save the last enclave of wildlife from the deadly plague. At first, Torday's interesting, imaginary world seems to be full of inconsistencies, but he takes pains to make a cohesive speculative environment for the characters to develop within. The prose is extremely British, which can be a barrier for reluctant readers, and while the characterization of Kester is strong, the plotting and atmosphere fail to deliver enough peril to make this novel a true a page-turner. Nonetheless, this gentle, dystopian adventure is a good introduction for students who may not have encountered environmental morality tale tropes, such as talking animals, an epic quest, and an evil corporation out to destroy the world. A solid choice for students who are too young for Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games (Scholastic, 2008).—L. Lee Butler, Stoughton High School, MA - Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 03/01/2014 In a world where there are no more animals (only a few rogue “varmints”), Kester Jaynes finds himself in an unusual position: a cockroach is asking him for help. Kester, who hasn’t spoken since his mother died, answers the entreaty of the cockroach (and some persuasive pigeons) and escapes to the forbidden wild, where a few animals have been hiding. It is up to Kester to save them by finding a cure for the deadly “red-eye” disease that has wiped them out. Torday weaves an intense narrative of survival and adventure akin to a sci-fi Brian Jacques tale and with great appeal to animal lovers. Underlying Kester’s wilderness exploits, however, is a story of corruption and greed, as the powerful Selwyn Stone stages a calculated takeover of society through manufactured truths and the henchmen he employs to enforce them. The plot becomes slightly repetitive at times, but overall this is an enchanted adventure with a message of empowerment and hope that ought to sweep readers along to the planned second volume. - Copyright 2014 Booklist.
Bulletin for the Center... - 04/01/2014 The animal population has been decimated in the last decade by the red-eye virus, and the human population isn’t faring too well either, setting up massive quarantines in cities and living on Formula-A (and the company that owns it) as the food supply dwindles. Meanwhile, twelve-year-old Kester, mute since his mother’s death and locked away in the Spectrum Hall Academy for Challenging Children, discovers a cockroach with the ability to talk to him. The insect, along with hundreds of its brethren, busts Kester out of his prison, and the boy is taken to meet a majestic stag, who informs him that Kester is the “last wild,” the last hope for the survival of the remaining animals. His subsequent journey-to find the research left behind by his veterinarian father and thwart the company behind Formula-A and the red-eye-is equal parts thrilling and poignant; Kester revels in new friendships, escapes dastardly bad guys, grieves for lost companions, and dares to hope that perhaps he can make a difference. A few dashes of humor, in the forms of a confused pigeon, a dance-obsessed mouse, and a comically arrogant wolf, add levity to the seriousness of Kester’s situation, and Kester himself is an appealing Everykid. Animal lovers are the obvious audience here, but so are middle-graders intrigued by post-apocalyptic worlds but not quite ready for the grimness of YA dystopias. KQG - Copyright 2014 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.