Happy Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!
Today, I'm reviewing the wonderfully inventive MG novel The Scavengers, by Michael Perry.
This is a book that is a smart coming-of-age story about a young girl who is intrepid enough to survive in a post-apocalyptic environment, but also provides a thoughtful look on how families and communities survive in difficult circumstances.
MMGM is a feature hosted by (fabulous) author Shannon Messenger on her blog every week!
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 2nd 2014 by HarperCollins
Format read: Finished copy via publisher
When the world started to fall apart, the government gave everyone two choices: move into the Bubble Cities...or take their chances outside. Twelve-year-old Maggie and her family chose the latter. They live in the world that was left behind.
Deciding it’s time to grow up and grow tough, Maggie rechristens herself “Ford Falcon”—a name taken from the beat-up car she finds at a nearby junkyard. This is where Ford’s family goes to scavenge for things they can use and barter with. Thus far, they have been able to survive this brave new world by working together. But when Ford returns one day to discover her home ransacked and her family missing, she must find the strength to survive on her own and rescue her loved ones.
This wholly original tween novel combines a page-turning adventure, heartfelt family story, and triumphant journey of self-discovery. With Scavengers, Michael Perry achieves the perfect mix of humor and heart in a world where one person’s junk is another person’s key to survival.
Michael Perry introduces us to twelve-year-old Maggie a.k.a. Ford Falcon, an intrepid twelve-year-old girl who has spent most of her life living and scavenging in the wilderness outside of a government-sanctioned bubble city.
While life isn't always easy, Maggie has her parents, little brother and friends to help with the challenges of their day-to-day life, until one day when she returns home and realizes that her family is missing. Now, with the help of friends, Maggie begins to dig into the mystery of their disappearance, and learns that there are dark secrets lurking in her family's past.
Post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels aren't uncommon in the MG/YA market these days, but Perry's book is a still standout for several key reasons, beginning with his engaging young heroine.
Even though Maggie's life is undoubtedly a difficult one, with danger frequently on the horizon, Perry shows us how she uses wit, creativity and some regular good-humor to get through her day of scavenging and learning, and how she also uses that ingenuity - a certain pig comes to mind! - to help her family continue to add to their own lives.
Younger readers will undoubtedly admire Maggie's gung-ho and proactive attitude toward scavenging and bartering for items that will make the lives of her family easier, and will also undoubtedly find secret joy in the fact that Maggie gets to spend a lot of time digging through junk to find much-needed treasure.
Outside of Maggie's own journey, Perry also does a good job of bringing up some subtle, but timely questions on genetic engineering, the difference between the haves and the have-nots, and how far people are willing to go to rule certain industry. Though these questions are never overtly in-your-face, it will make the reading experience far richer for readers of all ages, and give educators and parents ample opportunity to discuss parallels to our current day-to-day lives.
My one minor quibble with The Scavengers, is that there were certain elements of the book which felt a little too young for the MG genre. In particular, I was a little distracted by Toad Hopper's quibbles, including his habit of speaking in Pig Latin and using verbal shorthand for his day-to-day life.
However, I will concede that this is something that will probably matter less to younger readers. If anything, this will likely give educators and parents a good opportunity to discuss what makes a character unique, and why Toad Hopper has developed these characterizations to cope in this environment.
This is a multi-layered story take on survival in a post-apocalyptic/dystopian environment, and I loved growing alongside Ford Falcon, as she began to figure out some of the deeper secrets that had been buried in her family's past for far too long.
I highly recommend The Scavengers for readers who are looking for a smart middle Grade novel, that manages to nicely tie-in both a post-apocalyptic story and a coming-of-age tale, into a singularly smart novel.
I also recommend this book for educators and parents who are looking for a book that will appeal to reluctant readers; Ford's spunk and energetic approach to challenging situations will both engage them, and likely motivate them to apply similar attitudes to their own lives.
Bottom line: buy this book - it's a great addition to the genre, and to shelves everywhere!
About the author:
Michael Perry is a humorist and the New York Times bestselling author of the adult memoirs Population 485, Truck: A Love Story, Coop, andVisiting Tom. This is his first novel for children. Michael lives in Eau Claire, WI, with his wife and two children. You can visit him online at www.sneezingcow.com and follow him on Twitter @SneezingCow.