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Overview

"Wakey, wakey, everyone."
It's Monday. I think.
Technically, I've been here a week.
Feels like forever.

Melissa Callahan has always hated the dragons. They destroyed her mother, her family, her home. And now she's been charged with collaborating with them, with being an insurgent, and she's been thrown into a cell to . . . well, to what? Think about her nonexistent crimes? ...

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Talker 25

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Overview

"Wakey, wakey, everyone."
It's Monday. I think.
Technically, I've been here a week.
Feels like forever.

Melissa Callahan has always hated the dragons. They destroyed her mother, her family, her home. And now she's been charged with collaborating with them, with being an insurgent, and she's been thrown into a cell to . . . well, to what? Think about her nonexistent crimes? Think about how great her life once was? Think about James and her father and her brother and the lies? Think about escaping, when everyone knows that's impossible since the ice stretches forever and the cold is unbearable and the dragons can't hear her anymore.

Melissa Callahan is OTG. Off the grid. And so is Talker 1 and Talker 2 and Talker 3, 5, 7, 11, 22, 26 . . . all of them talking, constantly talking, into the void. All of them waiting for an answer.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
03/01/2014
Gr 8 Up—In this debut novel, McCune creates a dystopian fantasy world in which humans are pitted against dragons. The United States military declares the winged creatures their number one enemy, and protagonist Mel finds herself kidnapped by the pro-dragon insurgency group to whichher deceased mother (who was killed by a dragon) once belonged. After spending time bonding with dragons, the military recaptures her, and Mel is kept with other teens to be "reconditioned": they must communicate telepathically with dragons in order to lure them to their deaths. At this point in the story, the tone shifts from middle school-appropriate to teen. Alcohol and sex are awkwardly interjected and seem unnecessary to the plot or character development. An amusing website based upon a dragon reality show portrayed in the book shows promise, yet it ultimately falls short of its potential. This is a fast-paced adventure, but the abrupt ending feels rushed. The book's weakness lies in the heavy borrowing from popular trilogies. The emphasis on "insurgents" is reminiscent of Veronica Roth's books, as is the mind control and monitoring of thoughts and dreams. Like Suzanne Collins's Katniss, Mel undergoes makeup and costume changes for the cameras (she portrays herself in televised reenactments of dragon battles). Although lacking in originality, Talker 25 may have the familiarity and action-oriented storytelling that ravenous fans of the genre will enjoy.—Laura Falli, McNeil High School, Austin, TX
Publishers Weekly
04/28/2014
McCune's debut, first in a planned trilogy, takes place in a near-future America turned into a police state in response to the sudden appearance of intelligent, fire-breathing dragons. Although some of the creatures live peacefully on reservations, others are actively hostile, and the American military would just as soon exterminate all of them. After Melissa Callahan is implicated in a high school prank gone wrong—sneaking onto a reservation to kiss one of the less dangerous dragons—like the protagonist of Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, she is quickly trapped in a military bureaucracy gone toxic when it's discovered that she has the rare ability to talk to dragons. She and other children with this talent are imprisoned in Antarctica, without trial or recourse, and tortured until they agree to use their ability to lure dragons to their deaths. McCune's tale can be gritty and painful—many people and dragons, some of whom readers will grow to care about, die in bloody detail; his military villains, though, are one-dimensional and cartoonish. Still, the story packs a significant punch. Ages 14–up. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (Apr.)
The Horn Book
“Absolutely gripping and absolutely horrifying, Talker 25 is a sort of fantasy Gulag Archipelago, an account of the stripping down of humanity under extreme duress. That McCune manages an upbeat ending is a surprising feat, but readers will be left shaken by what came before.”
VOYA, June 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 2) - Katie Mitchell
Melissa’s life has revolved around dragons—martial law, a distinguished military father, a mother who was killed in a fiery attack, an understandable hatred of the “monsters.” Then a prank with some friends lands Melissa on the military’s radar, and she realizes that everything she thought she knew about her world is wrong. Melissa is a Talker, one who can communicate with dragons, a talent that makes her extremely valuable to both the military and the resistance. Talker 25 is an original take on the dystopian future. McCune’s debut places a recognizable United States in a starkly terrifying future. Melissa’s development from typical high school student to novice renegade is engaging, and her budding romance with James has great potential. However, the second part of the book takes the reader to a sadistic military prison where Melissa is tortured and forced to betray the insurgents. This section is overly long, with graphic depictions of dragon torture (chainsaws and hatchets), prisoners trading sex for favors, and children being reconditioned into submission by way of extreme abuse. Words such as “whorefit” (to describe a revealing outfit) and slut are common among the female prisoners. Talker 25 begins with promise but veers into territory that limits its effectiveness with its audience. Reviewer: Katie Mitchell; Ages 12 to 18.
Kirkus Reviews
2014-02-12
Americans face a terrifying threat. Teen Melissa Anne Callahan lives in a not-too-distant America where dragons mysteriously arrived one day and started destroying towns (sometimes even eating humans). Her mother died in a dragon attack, so she doesn't question the danger. After a late night of "dragon hunting" with thrill-seeking classmates, Melissa is accused of insurgency—just before her town is attacked, and she finds herself living among the insurgents and dragons she has been raised to hate. She soon realizes that the humans-vs.-dragons situation is not as clear-cut as the government and the media had led her to believe. She also discovers that she is one of the rare humans gifted with the ability to communicate telepathically with dragons. McCune's debut starts off with great promise, as readers get to know narrator Melissa and this terrifying world (an allegory for America's treatment of "terrorists," perhaps?). The story starts to unravel as the book moves from "Part I: Kissing Dragons" into "Part II: Reconditioning." Ultimately, its early potential devolves into a chaotic mess, derailed by ambition (a trilogy's worth of plot in just over 400 pages) and gratuitous dragon torture. Left with a score of largely unlikable, unengaging human characters, readers may reach the abrupt ending hoping that the dragons are the only survivors. Intense but unsatisfying. (Science fiction. 14 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062121929
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/22/2014
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 268,768
  • Age range: 14 years
  • File size: 974 KB

Meet the Author

Joshua McCune was born on a Navy base in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He grew up in London and Washington, D.C., went to college in Texas, and got married in New Zealand. He worked as a telemarketer, an SAT instructor, and a robotics engineer before becoming an author. He currently lives in San Antonio, Texas, with his wife and two dogs, writing stories of people and places just beyond the reach of planes, trains, and automobiles (but not dragons).

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