Memory Boy

Memory Boy

4.5 10
by Will Weaver

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Ash is still falling from the sky two years after a series of globally devastating volcanic eruptions. Sunlight is as scarce as food, and cities are becoming increasingly violent as people loot and kill in order to maintain their existence. Sixteen-year-old Miles Newell knows that the only chance his family has of surviving is to escape from their Minneapolis


Ash is still falling from the sky two years after a series of globally devastating volcanic eruptions. Sunlight is as scarce as food, and cities are becoming increasingly violent as people loot and kill in order to maintain their existence. Sixteen-year-old Miles Newell knows that the only chance his family has of surviving is to escape from their Minneapolis suburban home to their cabin in the woods, As the Newells travel the highways on Miles' supreme invention, the Ali Princess, they have high hopes for safety and peace. But as they venture deeper into the wilderness, they begin to realize that it's not only city folk who have changed for the worse.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The year is 2008, two years after a massive volcano has wreaked havoc in the United States. The air is polluted with ash, crops keep failing, fuel is scarce and looting is rampant. Sixteen-year-old Miles knows that the only way for his family to survive is to head to their cabin in the Minnesota wilderness. Relying on knowledge passed down to him from an elderly friend, Mr. Kurz, Miles constructs a man-powered vehicle out of bicycles and sailboat parts to transport himself, his parents and younger sister. Suspense builds steadily as the traveling foursome contends with hostile strangers, including road bandits and a sheriff who has allowed his relatives to occupy their cabin. Though it looks like the Newells have reached a dead end, Miles forms another plan. In an imaginative and plausible rendering of a futuristic society, Weaver plants enough familiar details so that readers can relate--including Dairy Queens and McDonald's restaurants (though meals cost 10 times as much), plus Miles's memories of school, suburbia and Mr. Kurz's nursing home. Although danger lurks around every corner, audience members will rest assured that Miles, armed with good instincts and highly developed mechanical skills, will be prepared to combat whatever roadblocks his loved ones meet. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
In what PW called an imaginative and plausible rendering of a futuristic society, the year is 2008, two years after a massive volcano has wreaked havoc in the U.S., and a 16-year-old boy knows that the only way for his family to survive is to head to their cabin in the wilderness. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
With the ash from volcanic explosions still falling on 16-year-old Miles Newell's hometown of Minneapolis, and citizens beginning to act crazy due to the lack of electricity and other items, Miles and his family decide they must head for their summer cabin in the woods. As they travel the highways on Miles' invention called the Ali Princess, they find high prices, suspicion, and robbers at every corner. On reaching their cabin, they are met by bikers and squatters who insist the cabin is theirs, and Miles decides they must keep going. A page-turning survival tale with an all-too-believable plot, this will keep fans of Gary Paulsen's survival novels happy. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2001, HarperTrophy, 230p.,
— Barbara Jo McKee
There is a lot going on in this novel—exploding volcanoes, an apocalyptic future, danger, flashbacks, crazy machines, hijackers, appealing heroes, and even a goat named Emily. It all comes together wonderfully in a breathless blend of science fiction and adventure. In the year 2006, volcanoes in the Cascade Range erupted, spewing tons of ash into the atmosphere. Now, almost three years later, society is breaking down. In Minneapolis, where Miles Newell and his family live, ash still falls steadily, and people must wear dust masks outside. Sunlight is obscured, food is scarce, and looting is becoming commonplace. Sixteen-year-old Miles has a plan. The Newells will head north to their summer cabin until things get better in the city. Riding Miles's invention, the Ali Princess, a melding of a sailboat, bicycles, and miscellaneous sports equipment, the family sets off for what they think will be safety. Everything has changed, however, even in the Minnesota lake country, and great danger lies ahead. Hand this book to both Gary Paulsen and science fiction fans and stand back. Flashbacks and an important subplot do not slow the breakneck pace of this riveting and all-too-believable tale. Miles Newell is an engaging character whose phenomenal memory is the key to the family's survival. Strap on your dust masks and get ready for a wild ride. PLB $15.89. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001, HarperCollins, 160p, $15.95. Ages 12 to 15. Reviewer: Lynn Rutan SOURCE: VOYA, August 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 3)
School Library Journal
Gr 8-10-Set in 2008, this novel takes place two years after Mount Rainier and several other volcanoes in the Cascade Range have erupted. Ashy fallout is destroying the environment across North America, and civilization is breaking down. Sixteen-year-old Miles and his family leave their increasingly dangerous Minneapolis suburb on a bicycle-powered vehicle with a sail that he designed. They head for their lakeside vacation cottage to wait out the chaos. Squatters bar them from their residence, but Miles comes up with an alternative plan. In the days just after the eruptions, he took part in an oral-history project for school and befriended an elderly man who spoke of living off the land in the north woods near the headwaters of the Mississippi. The man died soon after, but Miles remembers the directions to a hidden cabin and the basics of fishing, hunting, and gathering berries. In the end, they reach the cabin, and Memory Boy, as Miles's sister dubs him, realizes that these recollections will ensure his family's survival. The narrative alternates between the postapocalyptic present and the teen's account of his visits with Mr. Kurz. Miles is a likable, skateboarding wiseacre, bright and good with his hands, full of fear and bravado, and always secretly hoping for his father's approval. The other characters are not so well defined, but the menacing scenario will appeal to reluctant readers. A fast-paced survival story.-Beth Wright, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A suburban family flees the breakdown of law and order following a massive natural disaster in this tense near-future tale. It's 2008, and in the two years since Mount Rainier exploded, a steady rain of ash over much of the world has led to strict anti-pollution laws. Cars and trucks are virtually banned, electric power heavily rationed, fresh food has become a rare commodity—and horror stories of riots and rampant crime are starting to come out of the larger cities. Heading for a summer cabin, the Newells make a surreptitious exit from Minneapolis on a pedal- and wind-driven contraption cobbled together by 16-year-old Miles from bicycles and a sailboat's mast. It's a changing world through which they travel, in which small towns are closed or hostile, a fast-food breakfast costs nearly $100, and bandits on motorbikes prey on unwary strangers. Worse, the cabin, when they reach it, is already full of refugees who aren't inclined to move on. As in his other books (Hard Ball, 1998, etc.), Weaver has made this a male-oriented story, in which the men do most of the planning, fighting, and bonding, while the women may not always be passive bystanders but tend to cause more problems than they solve. Stubbornly aliterate but gifted with both an eidetic memory and great mechanical aptitude, Miles makes a memorable narrator/hero—not infallible, but competent enough, in the end, to lead his family to a place of safety. An absorbing tale set against a disturbing, plausibly developed background. (Fiction. 10-13)

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Age Range:
13 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Now or Never

It was the perfect time for leaving. Weather conditions were finally right: a steady breeze blew from the south, plus there was just enough moonlight to see by.

July 3, 2008.

This would be the date our family would always remember, assuming, of course, that we lived to tell about it.

"Hurry up. The wind won't last forever," I said. Three shadowy figures--my sister, Sarah, and my parents--fumbled with their luggage. With me, we were the Newell family. We lived in west suburban Minneapolis-for a few more minutes, at least.

"Shut up, Miles," Sarah muttered. She was twelve going on thirteen, and her carry-on bag overflowed with last-minute additions. I couldn't complain; I had my own private stuff, including a small sealed jar that would be hard to explain to my family. So I didn't try. Right now one of Sarah's stupid paperbacks dropped with a thud onto the sidewalk. I sighed and went to help her.

"I'm not leaving," Sarah said, jerking away from me.

"Everybody's going to die anyway, so why can't we die in our own house?" She plopped down onto the lawn. Pale pumice puffed up around her and hung in the air like a ghostly double. That was the weird thing about the volcanic ash; it had been falling softly, softly falling, for over two years now--and sometimes it was almost beautiful. Tonight the rock flour suspended in the air made a wide, furry-white halo around the moon. Its giant, raccoonlike eyeball stared down and made the whole neighborhood look X-rayed.

"Nobody's going to die," I said. "Though if we stay in the city, we might," I muttered to myself

"How do you know?"Sarah said. She sat there stubbornly, clutching her elbows.

"Actually, I don't. Which is why we're leaving."

Sarah swore at me. Anything logical really pissed her off these days.

"Arthur!" my mother said sharply to my father. "Help out anytime."

My father coughed briefly and stepped forward. "Think of it this way, Sarah. We're heading to the lake," he said, his voice muffled under his dust mask. "We'll get to our cabin, kick back, ride this out. Swiss Family Robinson all the way." He manufactured a short laugh that fell about fifty yards short of sincere. Sometimes I worried more about him than my sister and mother; they at least knew how to put wood in a fireplace. My father was a real city guy, a musician, a jazz drummer.

My mother added, "We all agreed, remember? As Miles said, up at Birch Bay we'll have more control of things, like heat, food, and water. When things improve-when the ash stops falling, and when there's gasoline, and when the food stores are full again we'll come back home." Something, maybe the dust, caught briefly in her throat.

"Miles said we'll have to stay up there all winter and all next year--maybe longer," Sarah said.

My parents were silent. They looked at each other. My father shrugged.

"What does Miles know?" Sarah said loudly. "He's barely sixteen! Why are we listening to him?"

"Can we not wake the neighbors?" I whispered urgently.

Sarah swore at me, and suddenly we were arguing like children.

"Enough!" my mother said to us. Natalie--everybody knows her as Nat, which is a good name because she's small and intense--reached down and yanked Sarah to her feet. "Think of it like ... a vacation. Maybe a little longer than usual, but still a vacation."

"Or better, pretend you're Mary Poppins," I said to Sarah. "When the wind was right, up, up, and away she went!"

"Miles," Nat said in warning. She looked to my father for help; he turned away, to his small duffel bag, and checked its zipper. Typical. Even though he was home nowadays, most of the time it still felt like he was gone.

Me, I had work to do. I went to the garage and eased up the big door. Inside sat my supreme invention of all time: the Ali Princess. I rolled her outside, and in the moonlight she was beautiful.

Perched on her six bicycle wheels, the Ali Princess looked like a gigantic grasshopper poised to spring away at first touch--or a dragonfly ready to take flight. Down her center, like an exoskeleton, was a bicycle built for two. The tandem bike with in-line, recumbent seats had belonged to my parents. It was one of those high-priced, spend-quality-time-together gifts that my father had bought for my mother. I had seen them together on it maybe once; the bike didn't have five miles on it. Attached to the main bike, like legs on a water-strider bug, were two regular bikes. Sarah's and mine, to be exact. Their pedals, chains and sprockets were hooked to the tandem bike through a common axle, which was no small task of design and mechanics, may I humbly say. I didn't want to count how many skinned knuckles and U clamps and quarter-inch nuts and bolts and lock washers and hours of hacksawing that all took.

"Amazing, really," my father said as he stared at the bike--car.

"Thank you," I said modestly.

The Princess, shaped roughly in a triangle, had a cargo bay of four lightweight aluminum lawn recliners bolted on either side of the main frame and secured to a wire-mesh floor. The main supplies--tents, sleeping bags, tools, food, and water--were already packed. If things went totally bust, we could always unload the Princess and start a pedicab business.

Straight up from the center of the Ali Princess rose my true inspiration: the sixteen-foot wooden mast and sail that had belonged to my father's boat, the Tonka Miss. To make the Princess, I had cannibalized every piece of sports equipment the Newell family owned...

Meet the Author

Will Weaver is an award-winning fiction writer. His latest novel is The Survivors, a sequel to his popular young adult novel Memory Boy. His other books include Full Service, Defect, Saturday Night Dirt, Super Stock Rookie, Checkered Flag Cheater, Claws, and the Billy Baggs books Striking Out, Farm Team, and Hard Ball, all of which are ALA Best Books for Young Adults. Formerly an English professor at Bemidji State University, he lives in northern Minnesota, a region he writes from and loves. He is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys hunting, fishing, canoeing, and hiking with his family and friends.

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Memory Boy 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
KHess14265 More than 1 year ago
The book was good, I wish it were longer and that the author explained each situation more in depth, but this book was written for a teen audience and it will work for them for a quick read.
J3v0n More than 1 year ago
Short but Very Entertaining It's like "Man vs Wild" meets "The Road". The story takes place immediately after the cataclysm and a few years later to show how people and America has changed. There's not much character development but that is a good thing giving the length of the book. This is a good book for teens or if your just looking to pass the time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The setting in this book is very intriguing. It is set at a time where volcanoes all across the Earth are erupting and filling the sky with ash. This setitng makes it so you feel like this could actually happen. Everyone is fending for themselves. The books time period is based on right now in the world today. It takes just a couple chapters to really get into it. But after you start you don't want to stop. His writing style makes you feel like you are in the book with the Newell family. Facing the trials and triumphs they have during the book. You can tell this is a more modern book, just by the authors style and examples he uses throughout the book. I usually lean more towards fantasy but after reading this I am trying differnet genres because I liked this book so much! The ending leaves you asking lots of questions. That would be the only bad thing I would say about this book. I am not one of those people who likes a book just to end without fully knowing what happened. But if you like to keep your mind going and just make up a ending or come to a ocnclusion yourself then you will like the ending. My favorite thing about this book is that it throws surprises at you. It takes an unexpected turn for the good or the bad at any moment. It changes from just present time for a chapter to Miles having a flash back. Which all ties in together because everything connects together leading up to the final conclusion.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was very good! It's set in Minnesota, more the Twin Cities area and Northern Minnesota, but it gives it a bit of a sci-fi feeling, and I don't know about some people, but I REALLY like sci-fi books that, and it is set in my home state, Minnesota!It was very good, one of Will Weaver's best! I would definitely recommend it to anyone that has an interest towards the sci-fi persuasion or books that are just different then what everyone else reads!
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this story, things are getting dicey and dangerous in Minnesota due to volcanic ash falling 2 years after explosions in the Pacific Northwest. When the family decides they would be better off getting out of town and going to their cabin up north, their teenage son makes it possible through his ingenuity. It is a chilling story and I really thought the author did a great job when he had the boy become the hero of the family. It really is unforgettable, so get it and find out why.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book! When I first checked it out of the library, the librarian said that it was her son's favorite book. I didn't exactly believe her until I read it. I definitly think this book deserves many awards and Will Weaver is an excellent author (I took a writing workshop of his).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love, love, loved this book! Here I am, a thirty-eight year old Mother, enjoying a read meant for a young teenage boy or girl. I do have to say, while reading this book, I kept telling myself that my son has to read this book. The first two chapters started out slow and then, I couldn't put the book down! It was a, Mark Twain meets Waterworld, for the 21st century.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this. Looking forward to book two.
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