The Girl at the Center of the Worldby Austin Aslan
In this fast-paced, exhilarating sequel to the acclaimed The Islands at the End of the World, Leilani and her family on the Big Island of Hawai’i face the challenge of survival in the world of the Emerald Orchid, a green presence that appeared in the sky after a global blackout. As the Hawaiian Islands go back to traditional ways of living, people must grow their own food and ration everything from gas to bullets. Medicine is scarce; a simple infection can mean death. Old tensions and new enemies emerge. And one girl, Leilani, is poised to save her world.
Gr 9 Up—Leilani's epilepsy gave her the ability to communicate with the entity protecting the Earth in The Islands at the End of the World (Random, 2014); now she must face the consequences of her decision to keep it here. Humanity may be safe from its own folly, but it continues to struggle without its conveniences, especially in isolated places like Hawai'i. To survive, Lei's community returns to the old ways as opposed to the selfishness and turf wars of others. They are far from safe though. When real trouble surfaces, the tension increases three-fold, gripping teens straight to the end. Once again the tyrant sheriff appears, and this time he wants Lei. Yet, a greater threat comes from the mysterious voice that wants to send the Orchids away. While certain elements are sci-fi, this postapocalyptic novel is steeped in realism. The book devotes much of its time to the difficulties of this new life, and as various parties share their experiences, Lei questions whether she is doing the right thing. Not all is bleak though, for there are moments of happiness, especially when romance finally blooms. Lei is a remarkable character who carries the weight of the world on her shoulders, but she hardly does it alone. VERDICT An engaging and poignant follow-up with weighty and powerful themes of survival, cooperation, and human nature.—Rachel Forbes, Oakville Public Library, Ontario, Canada
This sequel to The Islands at the End of the World (2014) finds Leilani reunited with her family on Hawaii's Big Island as humanity slowly adapts to the new, post-apocalyptic normal. In the wake of the events of the first book, Leilani must persuade the Orchid, the extraterrestrial responsible for the global nuclear meltdowns, to absorb the radiation threatening to plunge the planet into nuclear winter. While the island's peace-loving residents grow crops and barter goods, gangs battle for control of vastly diminished resources—including the antibiotics Lei's friend Tami desperately needs. Worries mount: material expelled by the Orchid hits Mauna Loa; Lei discovers someone working against her efforts, pushing the Orchid to leave too soon. She's heartened when the attractive soldier who helped her escape Oahu shows up—but so does the sheriff of Hana, a brutal psychopath with plans for using her powers. Lei's epileptic seizures are in abeyance, but she fears they'll return after the Orchid leaves. Sharing its predecessor's strengths, a suspenseful plot and compelling characters with emotional depth, this sequel effectively depicts the true and lasting costs of violence, even when its use is justified. As in the prior book, the ways the characters react to growing chaos remain entirely convincing, and the setting is vividly realized. Exciting and fast-paced entertainment with a thoughtful subtext asking readers to ponder the interconnectedness of life on a fragile planet. (Science fiction. 12-18)
Meet the Author
Austin Aslan was inspired to write The Islands at the End of the World and The Girl at the Center of the World while living with his wife and two children on the Big Island of Hawai'i, where he earned a masters degree in tropical conservation biology at the University of Hawai'i at Hilo. A National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, he can often be found exploring the wilds of northern Arizona and camping in a tent on a punctured air mattress. In other lives, Austin drove ambulances way too fast, served as an ecotourism Peace Corps Volunteer in a Honduran cloud forest, and managed a variety of local, state, and federal issue campaigns. Austin loves to travel widely, photograph nature, and laugh. Follow him on Twitter at @Laustinspace.
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