I would like to be stuck for awhile on a plane next to Aaron Starmer, author of The Only Ones, (2011, 319 pages). Only someone with an amazing mind could come up with this incredible story, so I bet he makes great conversation. Also, I didn’t fully get the ending of this book, and while he was enjoying his peanuts and beverage, I’d like to pin Mr. Starmer down for an explanation.
I was captivated by this book from the get-go. The beginning of the book describes the life of Martin Maple who lives on an island with his father. They are the only year-round residents and they never travel to the mainland. Martin’s schooling consists of helping his father build a big machine from odd parts, the purpose of which he is not told. Martin’s father is evasive about what the rest of the world is like, and what happened to Martin’s mother. But there are some summer residents who stay on the other end of the island, and Martin makes friends with another boy his age, George. George tells him about the outside world, and gives Martin books. Martin discovers that he loves reading, and he loves learning about the world beyond his island. One day his dad informs Martin that he needs to leave the island to get the final part for their machine. He says he’ll return before Martin’s eleventh birthday. But he doesn’t. So Martin journeys to the mainland by himself. But the world he finds is scarier than any world he has read about.
Summary from Goodreads:
Like the other children who have journeyed to the village of Xibalba, Martin Maple faces an awful truth. He was forgotten. When everyone else in the world disappeared one afternoon, these children were the only ones left behind. There’s Darla, who drives a monster truck; Felix, who used string and wood to rebuild the internet; Lane, who crafts elaborate contraptions for live entertainment; and nearly forty others, each equally brilliant and peculiar.
Inspired by the prophecies of a mysterious boy who talks to animals, Martin believes he can reunite them all with their loved ones. But believing and knowing are two different things, as he soon discovers with the push of a button, the flip of a switch, the turn of a dial…
A whimsical apocalyptic fable that carries readers to a future world without adults, a journey filled with dark humor that every reader will want to take.
Reviewers have compared this book to Lord of the Flies, The Road, The Maze Runner, Enders Game, and many other books, struggling to describe a story that is truly unique. I would add Among the Hidden to the list. The book jacket describes it as a “whimsical apocalyptic fable.” As a fable, the book would be a great one for a book club to discuss, although I’m not sure it really teaches a clear lesson. Rather, I believe it raises important questions about leaders and power, among other topics. I can’t articulate what makes a book timeless, I can only say when I think I’ve come across one that fits that description, and I think this one does.
I really did not know what was going to happen next in this one. The mysteries in the story kept me flipping the pages. When I finished it, I had the impulse to read it all over again, a very rare impulse for me.
I loved the author’s spare style of writing. There were no non-essential words, and many short powerful sentences that packed a powerful punch. I’m not sure most kids of middle grade age would appreciate this book as much as teens and adults might, but I think they could enjoy the story.
For more middle grade book reviews, follow links on the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday section of Shannon Messenger’s blog.