Happy MMGM, Reading Nook!
Today, we're reviewing a book by a blog favorite - Matthew J. Kirby. He's back in April with The Arctice Code, a book that's part-dystopian and part adventure story.
MMGM is a feature hosted by the fabulous Shannon Messenger on her blog every week!
Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: April 28th 2015 by Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
However, Matthew Kirby continues to prove that he is great at crafting stories for MG readers, and I can easily see this book becoming a hit with the younger crowd.
It is the near future, and the earth has entered a new ice age. Eleanor Perry lives in Tucson, one of the most popular destinations for refugees of the Freeze. She is the daughter of a climatologist who is trying to find new ways to preserve human life on the planet. Dr. Perry believes that a series of oil deposits she has found in the Arctic may hold the key to our survival. That's when she disappears--but not before sending Eleanor a series of cryptic messages that point to a significant and mysterious discovery. Now it's up to Eleanor to go find her.
This search will launch Eleanor on a breathless race to unlock the mysteries of what has happened to our planet, solving the riddle of the cold that could be humanity's end--and uncovering a threat to the earth that may not be of this world.
I love Matthew Kirby's writing, so I've been looking forward to The Arctic Code for months now. The idea of a world in a new ice age and a girl working with her scientist mom to solve a global problem, is inspiring and just what we need in MG literature.
Kirby introduces us to Eleanor, a young girl with intellectual chops and the know-how that she's clearly inherited from her climatologist mother. Unfortunately, Elenaor isn't in the best of circumstances: her mother is off to try and figure out how to preserve human life, and Eleanor is living in in Tucson, which is experiencing increasing food scarcity and diminishing resources.
All of this change, when Eleanor receives a series of messages from her mother, indicating that she's made a breakthrough of some kind. Now, Eleanor is on a mission to reunite with her mother, and try and figure out what's going on...
On a whole, Kirby sets up The Arctic Code extraordinarly well. While Eleanor is an immediately likable character - the book opens with her performing a hilariously brilliant science experiment - readers also recognize the innate challenges of her situation. She's living in a time when it seems like humanity is very well on the verge of losing their battle against nature, and it's both humbling and inspiring to watch Eleanor continue to thrive against those odds.
Even when Eleanor does make the often-made MG/YA decision of taking off to the north to find her mother against all sense and reason, Kirby shows us just how this is actually a very natural response for this very young girl. Eleanor has already spent a lifetime living in circumstances that very few of us can imagine, so it's only natural that she has the bravery and sheer gumption to pull off a journey that very few of us would likely undergo.
Eleanor is also aided once she arrives in the North. She connects with those who have the resources to help her, including a pilot and two siblings whose scientist father have gone missing with Eleanor's mother. Kirby shows us very quickly how extraordinary circumstances can tie people together, and how elements of teamwork and natural unity can help get the job done quickly - a subtle but important underlying lesson for the younger readers.
But after we start getting into the heart of what Eleanor's mother has discovered, that's when the book goes off the rails. While Kirby presents a very plausible explanation for just how and what has contributed to global cooling, the introduction of that explanation still felt completely out of left field. Without giving spoilers away, the thought of: "...and people haven't noticed this up to this point, because...?" went through my head as Kirby got deeper into the explanation, which pretty much undermined my ability to enjoy the rest of the book. It even made me challenge some of my original perceptions of the earlier chapters, which is not really how I like my reading experience to play out.
However, I will concede that I think that part of my inability to accept Kirby's explanation at face value, is because I AM an older reader, and I've seen similar scenarios play out both in science fiction books, and science fiction media. I don't think that younger readers will have some of the pre-conceived notions that I do, and will ultimately accept the ending.
Even if the ending doesn't necessarily make sense to me, I also have to trust that Kirby has a plan for the series. There are probably elements of the plot that might make more sense by book two, and I'll happily revisit the series.
Bottom line: the book is worth it. Yes, the ending is a little out there, but I trust in Kirby's work.
About the author:
Matthew J. Kirby is the author of the acclaimed middle grade novels The Clockwork Three, Icefall, and The Lost Kingdom, as well as one book in theNew York Times bestselling series Infinity Ring. He was born in Utah, but with a father in the military he has lived in many places, including Rhode Island, Maryland, California (twice), and Hawaii. As an undergraduate at Utah State University, he majored in history. He then went on to earn MS and EdS degrees in School Psychology. Matthew currently lives in Utah. You can visit him online at www.matthewjkirby.com.