£6.99 Quercus Fiction www.thelastwild.com
Shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2014
Nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal
Watch Piers Torday talking about this book in this video!
A boy named Kester Jaynes has a horrid existence. He’s been locked away in the depressing Spectrum Hall in a dark and scary future world. Since his Mum died, he’s become mute and has no idea why he is in Spectrum Hall. Because the Red-Eye virus has wiped out all animals, there is no longer any food, so at Spectrum Hall they eat Formula made by Facto. Facto has declared the countryside a Quarantine Zone, and forced everyone to move to the city. Kester soon learns: ” never argue with Facto”.
However, “varmints” like cockroaches and bugs are still around, and one day Kester is astonished to find a cockroach talking to him. He’s put into total isolation for 7 days after touching the varmints, and is visited by a large group of pigeons. *You have a special gift. Only you can save us,* they tell him. Kester discovers that he can talk to the animals, and so begins his adventure with the Last Wild.
Piers Torday’s strength for me is the ability to create distinct animal characters with quirky personalities-think Watership Down with a lighter touch-and how he shows the animal’s perspective in contrast to human reactions. For example, “Maybe the pigeons are right, but it’s either ‘Do something you might regret’ time or ‘Get torn apart limb from limb time’.” I really enjoyed his descriptions of the countryside, and the detail about the wildlife.
It takes a while to get used to the animal voices punctuated by asterisks, but they are necessary to show how Kester can talk to the animals, yet remain mute with humans, in the scenes when both animals and humans are present.
My favourite character is the dancing harvest mouse, who drives everybody mad with her infinite variations of dances, for example, the “Finding A Talking Human Again After An Extended Period Of Captivity Dance”.
If you’re going to read this aloud, you’d best be prepared to use your full vocal range for the huge cast of animals!
I think this book would suit readers age 10+ who want to get into the dystopian genre, but maybe aren’t quite ready for The Hunger Games orThe Maze Runner yet. I think it would suit young people who like the Narnia stories and Wolf Brother.