The Only Ones

The Only Ones

4.2 4
by Aaron Starmer

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"Call it coincidence, call it fate. This is the place you come. There's no one else. This is the entire world."

These words welcome Martin Maple to the village of Xibalba. Like the other children who've journeyed there, he faces an awful truth.

He was forgotten.

When families and friends all disappeared one afternoon, these were the only


"Call it coincidence, call it fate. This is the place you come. There's no one else. This is the entire world."

These words welcome Martin Maple to the village of Xibalba. Like the other children who've journeyed there, he faces an awful truth.

He was forgotten.

When families and friends all disappeared one afternoon, these were the only ones left behind.

There's Darla, who drives a monster truck, Felix, who uses string and wood to rebuild the Internet, Lane, who crafts elaborate contraptions, and nearly forty others, each equally brilliant and peculiar.

Inspired by the prophesies of a mysterious boy who talks to animals, Martin believes he can reunite them with their loved ones. But believing and knowing are two different things, as he soon discovers with the push of a button, flip of a switch, turn of a dial . . .

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Martin Maple lives on a remote island with his father, who spends his time constructing a mysterious machine. When the man doesn't return from his journey to find its final piece, Martin ventures off island and discovers that not only has his father vanished, but so has nearly everyone else in the world. Eventually he comes to Xibalba and meets other eccentric and lonely young people who have survived the unknown event: bossy Darla, who drives a monster truck; cynical Lane, who builds elaborate mobile sculptures; and mysterious Nigel, who claims to talk to animals and is regarded by the inhabitants of Xibalba as a prophet. Convinced that his father's machine can set things to rights, Martin works to reconstruct it while, in true Lord of the Flies fashion, tensions and secrets start to erode the workings of the makeshift society. Slow to build, Starmer's science-fiction fable ultimately becomes gripping and haunting as the characters explore matters of faith, leadership, and responsibility, culminating in a reflective, bittersweet conclusion worthy of Neil Gaiman.—Christi Esterle, Parker Library, CO
Publishers Weekly
In Starmer's (Dweeb) unsettling post-apocalyptic tale, Martin Maple has grown up with his father on an island in near- total isolation. When his father fails to return from a trip to the mainland, 12-year-old Martin ventures ashore for the first time and finds everyone gone. Traveling across the country, he discovers nothing but empty homes and abandoned cars until he reaches Xibalba, a town populated by a group of misfit children, apparently the last people left on Earth. While on the island, Martin and his father had built a complex, Rube Goldbergesque machine of unknown purpose: "The less you understand, the better," Martin's father says. "It's a powerful thing, and if it's misused, the results could be devastating.' " Martin now believes that the machine is a spaceship and that by building another one he and the other children can find their missing families. In reality, the machine is something much odder. Owing as much to dreams as to science fiction, this strange tale can be riveting, but its quirky characters are sometimes difficult to believe in as young adolescents, and its dénouement feels contrived. Ages 10–up. (Sept.)
VOYA - Kaitlin Connors
Martin Maple lives on an island with his father where they spend their days tinkering with a machine that Martin's father promises will bring them a better life. When Martin is ten, his father leaves the island, promising to return before his eleventh birthday. Yet, two years pass and no one, not even summer vacationers, returns to the island. Finally, Martin leaves the island to discover Xibalba. Pronounced Shi-balba, Martin discovers a town with forty other young people and learns there is no one else left. On The Day, everyone else vanished. Nigel, the local prophet, explains to Martin that his machine will save them all. Along with the help of several other Forgottens, Martin recreates a giant version on the machine. A series of harrowing events may prevent the group from discovering the true power of the machine, but too much is at stake to give up hope. Aaron Starmer weaves an enchanting tale full of mystery and magic. The novel includes moments of gentle humor that contrast with despair and sadness, creating a perfect balance. Librarians and teachers may question the suitability of some violent scenes for younger audiences; however, the children are well-developed and any reader could easily relate to the complexities of combatting the struggle to be a mature young adult while still craving the simplicity of youth. It is an eloquent mix of Golding's 1954 Lord of the Flies and Wells's 1895 The Time Machine that has the potential to appeal to many readers. Reviewer: Kaitlin Connors

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
700L (what's this?)
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt


The Mainland

The stars melted away. Martin had rowed through the night. The next time I see stars, he thought, it won’t be from the island and it won’t be from the ocean.

For through the first spits of morning sunlight, he spied the mainland only a few hundred yards ahead of him. The island had ten houses, while the mainland had hundreds. Dozens of docks lined the water’s edge, and countless boats bobbed quietly in a harbor. Many of the boats were half submerged. A few were almost entirely covered in water. Broken masts stuck up through the froth like stubborn little birch trees.

Seagulls circled above him as Martin guided the boat up to a dock. He climbed out and scanned the surroundings. Streets and paths wound their way through the town and into hills in the distance. Cars were strewn everywhere--along the streets, in the streets, even in the grass, which was as high as Martin’s shoulder. Martin had never seen a car before, but he knew that they were “boats with wheels and windshield wipers,” as his father put it, and in nearly every book Martin had read, they were the preferred manner of transportation.

Many of the buildings near the dock were decorated with signs announcing things like the coldest beer in town or fine dining for fine folks. Martin hadn’t eaten in a day, and while he was accustomed to going without a meal or two, the row from the island had left him ravenous.

He made his way down the dock and entered the first building he came upon, a modest construction with a hand-carved sign above the door that read the barnacled butcher.

The first things he noticed were the red stains on the floor. Then a scattering of meat- and marrow-picked bones. Lingering scents of rot and feces hit him next. It had seemed a reasonable place to find a meal, but he had read far too many books about murderers and monsters. He wasn’t going to risk meeting such things.

For now, he would explore the rest of the town. Perhaps he would meet someone. Perhaps someone would know where to find George. It had been almost two years since he had seen a soul, and he desperately needed to see one now.

But there wasn’t anyone anywhere he looked.

Without even a sliver of warning, a fog hustled in. Martin became blind to everything more than a few yards away. So he kept to the winding streets, hiking for more than a mile and dodging car after car--some with their windows open and their seat cushions torn into tidy little nests; all abandoned and splattered white with gull guano.

If there’s not someone, he thought, then there must be something that can tell me where I am and where I should go.

For now, the best the world could give Martin was a pile of waterlogged books, pouring out onto the street. He stepped over them and onto a wild, dewy lawn, where he found a series of plastic tables overturned on the ground, their legs sticking up and hugged by weeds. Next to one table, he found a sign. He lifted it, wiped away the mud, and read: Gently Used Books--Support Our Renovations This Saturday and Sunday.

He placed the sign down and squinted through the fog at a building across the lawn. He could barely make out a line of steel letters on the brick entryway.


It was chillier inside. And dark--so dark that Martin had to let his eyes adjust for a minute before taking a step beyond the doorway. There was an odor, a mustiness, but nothing like in the butcher shop. The floors were relatively free of debris, and as he made his way past a large wooden desk, Martin drew in a breath of relief.

Thousands of books filled dozens of shelves. A few books lay open on the floor, but for the most part, everything seemed in good shape. Martin placed his hand on a line of bindings, then ran his fingers down the row, releasing flurries of dust and listening to the beautiful thwap, thwap, thwap.

He lifted a book off a shelf and stared at its glossy cover, adorned with a photograph of the moon. It would take a lifetime to read every book in the library, and Martin began to wonder if maybe it wasn’t such a bad way to spend his days. Maybe he wasn’t ready to go on. Maybe he was meant to see the world through the filter of books.

Something in the world had changed, though. It couldn’t always have been like this, and the books couldn’t answer the most important questions.

What happened?

Where is everyone?

Why is something pressing against my knee?

Martin looked down to see a dark mass at his feet. A black nose rubbed gently against his right knee, then moved down his shin until it came to his sock, where it tried to work itself inside with an inquisitive snuff.

Instinctively, Martin reached his hand down to pet the animal at his feet. Its fur was thick and course, like slightly damp hay. He had petted dogs on the island but had never felt one like this. As he pulled his hand away, the nose followed his fingers. Martin got a closer look. It had a snout like a dog’s, but its head was rounder and its ears were stiffer. It raised a paw and placed it in the bend of Martin’s elbow. Its claws were as thick as Martin’s fingers. The pads of its feet were as big as his hands.

“Hello,” Martin said softly.

The creature let out a low rumbling sound--soothing at first, then more anxious.

“I’m Martin Maple. From the island. I’m here for a visit. To have a look around.”

The creature answered by pulling its head away from Martin. It opened its mouth in what looked like a yawn. Small daggers for teeth, hot breath. It lifted itself until it was standing on two feet. Even standing straight up, it was shorter than Martin by a good foot and a half, but Martin’s body still tensed in recognition.

“You’re a bear.”

The bear blinked.

“I’ve read about you. You’re smaller than I expected. You don’t seem so mean.”

Martin eased his hand back toward the bear, planning to calm it by petting its head. But just as his hand reached the snout, he felt a warm, damp breeze blow onto the top of his neck.

Then he heard a rumble.

It was similar to the rumble the bear had made, but it was coming from behind Martin. It was also deeper and louder. Vibrations crept across Martin’s scalp.

He turned around in time to see another bear moving slowly toward him. It was three times as big as the first and had a fox dangling from its jaws. The fox was jerking violently, but the bear didn’t seem to notice. Its eyes were locked on Martin.

All at once came a flash of teeth and nostrils as the bigger bear tossed the fox into the darkness and lunged at Martin. Martin threw himself against the bookshelf. A cascade of hardcovers raged out, and the entire thing crashed to the ground.

Martin looked up from the pile of wood and paper. The smaller bear was smiling down at him, and the larger one was rising to its feet, recovering from its failed lunge. Martin’s legs flew into a fit of kicking. Books launched into the faces of both bears. They turned their heads, but their backs still blocked the entrance to the library. Martin scrambled to his feet and began to run. Weaving in and out of the aisles, he searched for any sign of sunlight. He would kick and claw a hole in the wall if need be. He had to get out of there.

Then he saw an orange dot in front of him. He zeroed in on it. He didn’t dare slow down or turn his head and look back. The dot was moving. It was going somewhere. He was going to follow it.

The orange dot darted purposefully across the floor, at a speed Martin could match but couldn’t beat. He followed it through aisles of books, down a hallway, through a wide-open room, all the way to a staircase. Then, without any warning, it stopped. Martin closed in.

At the foot of the staircase sat the fox that had been dangling from the bear’s mouth. Its orange fur was shifting to red as blood plotted a slow and insidious takeover. One of the fox’s legs was bent, and stuck out uselessly to the side. Exhausted, the animal looked up at Martin. It looked at the stairs it had to climb. It curled into a ball.

Without thinking, Martin snatched the fox, tucked it under his arm, and raced up the stairs. At the top, he saw a pane of glass as big as a door. It was damp with the fog but also glowing with the small bit of sunlight that had found its way through. He lowered his shoulder, held the fox behind his back, and plowed into the glass.

Instead of breaking, the glass heaved. Then it popped from the wall like a head off a dandelion and fluttered down into the grass. Martin’s body swayed in the hole for a moment, and his canvas bag dangled and tried to pull his shoulder down with its weight. Behind him was the sound of the bears thundering up the stairway. Below him was the mist-soaked backyard of the library. He looked out to a tight line of trees where a forest began. Gravity and momentum finally took over and Martin closed his eyes as he and the fox tumbled down into a patch of hardy bushes below.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

AARON STARMER earned his bachelor's degree in English from Drew University and his master's degree in cinema studies from New York University. He received an entirely different kind of education working for 10 years as an expert in travel literature and a specialist in African safaris. His first novel was the comic children's adventure Dweeb. He lives with his wife in Hoboken, New Jersey.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Only Ones 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Only Ones is engaging and captivating. It is a book about a boy on an unusual journey, full of new discoveries, tough problems to solve with fascinating solutions. The story is always moving, there are surprises, change of pace, and a Mystery that keeps the tale of a young, naive but clever boy (Martin Maple) on course for a remarkable ending. The characters that Martin ultimately meets on his way were diverse, engaged in a unusual situations, and are the only ones in a world without adults. The story has multiple layers with a mysterious quest to build a machine (that seems to be the primary goal), a interweaving of literary experience that Martin has obtained while living alone on an island in the beginning and conflicting interrelations that are difficult to resolve. This was a hard book to put down and probably deserves to be read more than once. I read it in two sittings and certainly hope there will be a sequel. I recommend it highly and expect it to be a favorite for anyone older that 10.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey seth
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So sarry are u there