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Life’s Gone to the Teens

One good thing about a post-apocalyptic society like the one in Chris Weitz’s The Young World would be having free access to New York City’s finest clothing retailers. (The whole "scavenging for food and fighting off insane teenagers" thing? Pass.)

Life’s Gone to the Teens

BOOK REPORT for The Young World (The Young World #1) by Chris Weitz

Cover Story: Do You Hear the People Sing?
BFF Charm: Yay and Eventually
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: He Says, She Says
Bonus Factors: Nerdy References, Diversity
Bonus/Anti-Bonus Factor: Kid Nation
Anti-Bonus Factors: D-Bags, Series Starter
Relationship Status: Sticking Together for Our Own Good

Before we jump into the review, I wanted to let y’all know about an exciting event this weekend in Houston that will be hosted by yours truly: An Evening with Chris Weitz: Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. At the event, I’ll be moderating a Q&A session with Weitz and we’ll be discussing his career (both as a filmmaker and writer), his writing process and his novel, which just so happens to be the novel this review is about! (Spoiler alert: I enjoyed it.)

If you’re in the Houston area and a fan of dystopias—both in YA lit and movie form—you should come!

Now, on to what you came here for.

Cover Story: Do You Hear the People Sing?

The Deal:

The world as we know it has ceased to be—but not because of bombs or aliens or a rogue asteroid. It’s because a virus has killed off all adults and all small children. Teenagers now rule the world.

The Washington Square Tribe, made up of a misfit bunch of New York City kids, does what they can to survive—whether that be scavenging for food, weapons and clothes or fighting off advances from other groups of teens from other parts of the city—and they pretty much always stick to their turf. But when Brainbox, the tribe’s resident genius, finds mention of a scholarly journal that just might hold the key to saving the world, a group sets off on a trip across the island … a trip that quickly turns out to be more than a “quick trip to the library and back.”

BFF Charm: Big Sister and Yay to Platinum

Jefferson is a not-so-typical smart kid whose book knowledge sometimes overrides his common sense. He’s a leader, but it doesn’t always come naturally. Given a few more years—which, due to the nature of life in The Young World, he might not have—he would grow into a fantastic (and likely super hot) adult. For most of the book, however, I just wanted to put my arm around his shoulders when he was feeling low and support his decisions when he was questioning them.

Donna is a little abrasive at first, but it soon becomes apparent that she puts on an act to protect herself. She quickly became really relatable, particularly for someone like me, who was a little bit outsider, a little bit girly and more than a little bit introverted when I was her age. Donna is the type of person who’d totally “get” the need to be by myself at times, and yet would be there in a second if I needed her. Everyone needs a friend like that.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

The Young World depicts a world populated by teenagers who a.) don’t have parents around to tell them what not to do, b.) can’t get pregnant and c.) have a limited lifespan. You might think that they’d spend much of the book time shacked up. However, you should also give them a little credit—they do still have other needs to attend to. It’s these needs that drive the plot of the novel (thankfully), so there’s little time for swoon. There is a relationship that blossoms as the book goes on, and it’s sweet, but it’s not exactly swoonworthy.

Talky Talk: He Says, She Says

The Young World’s chapters alternate between Jefferson and Donna’s POVs. Chris Weitz does a great job at writing two narrators that are very different; never once did I get confused between who was talking (nevermind the fact that the chapters are also set in different typefaces). Weitz also does a surprisingly good job at writing from a teenage girl’s perspective.

Weitz’s film background—in his other life, he’s directed movies including About a Boy, American Pie and The Twilight Saga: New Moon—also shows through in The Young World’s pacing and plot. That’s not a bad thing, though; in the novel, there’s a lot of action and not a lot of fluff. (Side note: The book has already been optioned for adaptation; Weitz is set to direct.)

Bonus Factor: Nerdy References

As someone whose home is filled with toys, art, T-shirts, etc. of a particularly nerdy variety, I appreciate a good nerd reference. In The Young World, the Washington Square tribe spends a little of their very limited electricity every now and then to watch a movie—their favorite being Star Wars: Episode IV–A New Hope. I approve.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

Unsurprisingly, the kids in The Young World come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. There are Asian kids, white kids, latino kids and even one African-American kid who also happens to be gay. The Washington Square kids are satisfyingly OK with people being whomever and whatever they want to be.

Bonus/Anti-Bonus Factor: Kid Nation

The idea of a situation in which teenagers find themselves alone and “in power” is not a new one. From Lord of the Flies to a British/New Zealand TV show from the late 90s called The Tribe, literature and pop culture is rife with these stories. The Young World didn’t exactly feel fresh on the whole, but the characters were entertaining. Perhaps it’s telling that this kind of story can continue to entertain.

Anti-Bonus Factor: D-Bags

Trigger warning: One of the other tribes that the Washington Square kids come into contact with have reverted back to the days when women “belonged” to men. I really hope that when the cure is eventually found, no one gives it to those guys.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Series Starter

Not unexpectedly, The Young World is numero uno in a new series. The book ends on a pretty big cliffhanger, too, so I’m a little more annoyed at having to wait for the next in the series than I have been with other series starters I’ve read recently.

Casting Call:

Hayami Mokomichi as Jefferson

Sami Gayle as Donna

Relationship Status: Sticking Together for Our Own Good

Although we might not be meant to be, Book, I think it’s in our best interests to stick this relationship out and see where it goes. Besides, in a post-apocalyptic society, us sane people with somewhat useful skills need to stick together!

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Little, Brown. I received neither a private dance performance from Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. The Young World is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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