Thursday, September 29, 2011

Who are "Them" and "Us"?

Away (The Line, Book 2)
Rachel has crossed into Away with the Others to bring medicine to save the son of the woman her mother works for. What she isn't letting on is that she hopes to find her father too. In a fallen United States, now the Unified States, something irrevocable happened- war and fear caused the country to tighten its borders with an impenetrable border that cut off a huge population of the country, leaving them to fend for themselves. In Teri Hall's sequel Away, we see the other side of this post-war dystopia- the people forgotten on the other side of the border.

Rachel feels safe with Pathik, Ms. Moore's grandson, but she isn't so sure about the rest of the Others. Some of them have developed gifts, such as Pathik's ability to read people's minds and moods. Some of the gifts aren't nice, like Jab who can give you pain without even touching you. But Rachel is willing to risk her own life to bring medicine to Malgam, Pathik's father, and to find information about her own father, Daniel. She brings with her to Away an ideal of who these Others are, but what she wasn't expecting was the fact that the Others don't trust the people from her side of the border either. These are the people who abandoned them, and they have never looked back.

Ms. Moore's medicine works, and Rachel finds out her father is alive... possibly. He has been taken by a group of very bad Others who want to trade him back to the government for supplies. When they rescue him, he can't believe he is seeing his daughter, his grown up daughter who risked her life to cross the border. Now all the group can think about is getting Rachel's mom and Ms. Moore to the right side of the line, the side with their families. Can they succeed, or will they lose everything?

With a dystopia like this, you always wonder about both sides and the first book, The Line, didn't have much information about the other side. This follow-up was a brilliant balance to that information. I loved the idea that both sides have misinformation about the other side, and neither trusts one another. It was a good example of propaganda, fear, and an oppressive government. This would be an excellent series to accompany a history lesson on divided Germany. You would be able to directly correlate sides of the book with sides of Germany and discuss the distrust and misinformation thanks to the government. This aid of a work of fiction could put real life situations into perspective for students who are 40-50 years removed from the events you are trying to teach them about.

The beauty of this story is that it is a very simply written story that is perfect for any middle reader, but the interest level would appeal to older students as well. It might not be the most sophisticated book for kids who read a lot of dystopian literature, but could be a good balance to a kid who is new to the genre but is low skilled. And since the books are relatively short, they can enjoy the success of reading two books with relative ease. I love this story both for its simplicity and its complexity- a great series for anyone and everyone!

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