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Exile from Eden

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Exile from Eden Book Poster Image
Teens tour the apocalypse in zany, touching sci-fi satire.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Exiles from Eden explores issues of self-reliance, sexuality, and quests for knowledge. It offers opportunities to discuss how society might change in the wake of a global disaster.

Positive Messages

Even if most of civilization has been eaten by insects, it's still possible to live a life that's purposeful. Families come in all kinds of configurations. It's never too late to tell someone you love them.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Arek is a curious 16-year-od, eager to learn how things work beyond the hole he's been living in for more than a decade and a half. He's devoted and strongly attracted to Mel, his female compatriot who is more or less the voice of sanity. A boy named Breakfast celebrates his own wildness and stays remarkably upbeat living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Arek is white, Mel mixed race-Asian, but Breakfast is described as "brown," which may simply be from living aboveground in the dust.

Violence

Giant insects attack Arek and his friends, but the creatures are mostly dying out by the time of this tale. The mantises do manage to kill a married couple who have taken Breakfast prisoner. Mel is briefly in danger of being sexually assaulted, but she handles the situation with courage and resourcefulness.

Sex

Arek often worries about sex in general and masturbation in particular. He and Mel eventually have their first sexual encounter together, but the act is not described in any detail. Of the two, Mel is the more matter-of-fact. It is also made clear that Arek's two dads are sexually intimate.

Language

Life in the future is harsh, and so is the language in Exile from Eden. Frequent uses of "s--t," "f--k," "bulls--t," "ass," "balls." 

Consumerism

Arek and Mel pick up supplies at an abandoned WalMart.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Arek gets sickeningly drunk with a bottle of whiskey.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Exile from Eden is a sequel to the Prinz Honor-winning Grasshopper Jungle. Written by Andrew Smith (Rabbit & Robot), this satirical science fiction novel follows Arek (a boy), Mel (a girl), and Breakfast (another boy) as they explore the world in the wake of an insect-based apocalypse. Violence is mostly directed against the giant insects, although Breakfast is captured by a survivor who may intend to assault Mel. Arek is in love with Mel and wants to have sex with her. Expect lots of swearing (including "s--t" and f--k") and talk about masturbation and sex, especially from a boy's point of view. Smith tends to make his satirical points through repetition, so if you find it funny the first time Breakfast scratches his scrotum, you are assumed to find it hilarious the 90th. Not for every taste, but may appeal especially to male reluctant readers.

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What's the story?

At the beginning of EXILE FROM EDEN, 16-year-old Arek, having survived the end of the world in an underground bunker, chafes at the close confines. When his two fathers fail to return from an excursion aboveground, Arek and his best friend, Mel (a girl), take off in a motorhome to see what's left of the world. Along the way, they encounter naked, wild Breakfast, a boy who travels with a chimp named Olive. Together, they search for Arek's dads and try to understand what the world was like before it was overwhelmed by giant killer insects.

Is it any good?

Lots of readers want to imagine what happens after the end of the world, and this antic science fiction novel paints a satirical picture of a collapsed culture ready to welcome the return of humanity. A sequel to Grasshopper Jungle, Exile from Eden stands sturdily on its own. Author Andrew Smith does everything he can to make readers root for Arek, Mel, Olive, and Breakfast as they encounter -- and misinterpret -- the world others left behind. Some may find the humor sophomoric and repetitive, but there's a sense of genuine purpose behind it, to affirm humanity's resilience in the face of disaster. Exile from Eden won't suit every taste, but fans of rule-breakers like Kurt Vonnegut may be won over by its ragtag charm.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Exile from Eden imagines the end of the world. Why do readers enjoy stories about Doomsday?

  • Why does Arek's father say that "All stories are true"? Do you agree with that? What are some of the consequences of believing such a thing? 

  • Arek spends a lot of time thinking about losing his virginity. Why is that act so important to him? Why does Mel, a girl, think about it differently?

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