Sunday, April 22, 2012

Starts with a Roar

The Roar
Animals are endangered, extinct even. Plants are bulldozed for parking lots and apartment buildings. Habitats are destroyed, and humans are at war with nature. Nature isn't winning. Until the Animal Plague.  When the Animal Plague turned all the animals into murderous crazed beasts hell-bent on destroying their one common enemy, humans, the humans were forced to abandon most of the world and live behind giant walled cities while the rest of the earth is poisoned to rid the planet of the hostile animals. In The Roar, by Emma Clayton, the world may not be exactly as it seems. 

Ellie knows her parents think she is dead, but she hopes her twin brother Mika knows she is out there. Kidnapped and trained as a super soldier thanks to her mutations, Ellie just wants to get back to her twin brother- her other half. Mika, on the other hand, is sure Ellie is alive, even though no one believes him. He has learned to keep his thoughts to himself after everyone was convinced he was crazy. But he knows he has to find a way to get Ellie back to him.

When the government releases a new pod fighter video game, the kids can't get enough of it. They start living just to play the game, almost in a zombie-like trance. The game quickly weeds out the normal kids from the prodigies, and Mika is one of the few incredibly talented kids who gets to compete in the final rounds of the competition. What no one is aware of, however, is the terrifying levels of corruption within the government who created the game to not only weed out the talented mutants like Mika, but to control the rest of the population as well. Mika suspects there is more to this game, but he knows it is the only way back to Ellie, and for Ellie, he would risk everything.

The Roar is a pretty long book, but it reads fairly easily. I have to admit, there was a long section in the middle of the book that could have been condensed and still maintained the same effect. It was this very long part about Mika working his way through the levels of the pod fighter video game that bored me a little in the middle. But once he progressed to the further rounds, it got more exciting... and more deadly. The world that was described, these cramped walled cities, the bottom portion damp, moldy, and filled with flood water and the top reserved for the wealthy where they could ignore the poverty of the millions of people beneath them. It was a pretty terrifying world, but the level of corruption and deception beneath the actual world is the real terrifying part. You don't get to see this corruption until the very end of the book, but it will leave you anxious to start the second book, Whisper.

This is a series that reads like a middle reader story, but has some complex ideas (not really content), and could appeal to lower skilled, older readers. It is certainly long, so it might be daunting for some students. The video games as mind and population control, however, is an awesome topic to discuss with your children and students. So many kids get sucked into these video games, that it would be interesting to pose a "what if?" to them in contrast to this story. I bet they would think twice about it next time they picked up the video game... what if they are being controlled?! It would be a great conversation to have and one that affects them personally. Overall, this was an interesting story and I look forward to the second book, but it was a little younger than most dystopias or post-apocalyptic stories out there. 

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