A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Last Wild, by British first-time author Piers Torday, is a thoroughly original, compelling mix of familiar ingredients: dystopian futures, prison-like boarding schools, hero's journeys, technologically enhanced villains, and lovable animals. While the publisher says it's OK for 8-year-olds, it may be too much for some of them: All the parents of the 12-year-old protagonists are absent, one dead, two imprisoned, and one simply disappeared. One of the 12-year-olds has been thrown into a "school" that's really a prison, and doesn't know why. There's also nightmare fodder galore in grotesque scenes of weapon-wielding mobs and roving, human/machine hybrid animal-killers, and any kid who ever loved an animal will find the institutionalized campaign to exterminate them horrific. The human and animal characters facing these perils are complex, good-hearted, brave, and often hysterically funny. Their adventures keep the pages turning and leave readers with plenty to think about, including the impending sequel.
What's the story?
When he was 6, Kester Jaynes' mom died, and he lost the ability to speak. Then he was packed off to Spectrum Hall, home to problem and unwanted children, where he's bullied and mistreated. Meanwhile in the outside world, a strange plague has wiped out many of the world's animals -- and government agents have been killing every animal they can find. In the wake of the massacre, the world's ecosystems have collapsed, and everything's in the control of the company that manufactures horrible food substitutes. Against this backdrop, Kester, now 12, is helped to escape by THE LAST WILD, a group of animals who've escaped their would-be killers, and who believe only Kester can save them -- from the plague and the murderous humans.
Is it any good?
You may have seen thesse elements before -- but not like this. First-time author Piers Torday is the son of Paul Torday, whose first novel -- at 60 -- was Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. There's a certain family resemblance, most notably in the irrepressibly oddball sensibility that gathers wildly disparate elements that shouldn't work together at all, including a hefty dose of venerable tropes -- dystopian futures, prison-like boarding schools, hero's journeys, technologically enhanced villains, and lovable animals -- and deftly blends them into a fresh, irresistible new story. Alternately sweet, terrifying, and hysterically funny, the story presents distinctive, appealing characters, human and otherwise, facing a fast-paced onslaught of deadly perils.
While the book's publisher says it's fine for 8-year-olds, some kids -- especially tenderhearted animal lovers and those prone to nightmares -- might find it too intense: Parents die, there's a monstrous character whose crutches turn into guns and other weapons, and animals, including cute, beloved ones, meet violent deaths.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why stories of dystopian futures are so popular -- and so scary. Do they have any common elements with the world we live in, and its issues?
Kester lost the ability to talk when his mom died. Do you know anybody who was traumatized like this by the death of a loved one? How did they eventually cope?
Do you like the way this story mixes up scary, sweet, cute and funny parts, or do you prefer stories that are just one thing?
- Author: Piers Torday
- Illustrator: Thomas Flintham
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Viking
- Publication date: March 18, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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