Gr 5–8—Twins Sam and Wyatt were children when the aliens took everyone between the ages of 16 and 65 except for those with disabilities, who were deemed weak or useless. Wyatt sees the world differently than his neurotypical sister, and together, the two try to discover where the invaders have taken their parents. When the aliens return to collect more people, the duo know it's time to fight back. Walz uses muted grays and greens to depict the dystopian environment on Earth, and a blue palette for flashback scenes, which fill in some much-needed world-building and character development. This is an action-packed story with compelling art and dialogue and a cliff-hanger ending; many readers will finish the book in a single sitting. The aliens are appropriately scary (with gaping, toothy maws and menacing red eyes), and themes of love, loyalty, and acceptance are effectively conveyed. VERDICT A strong pick for reluctant readers. Give to fans of Margaret Peterson Haddix's "Shadow Children" series or Mark Siegel's "5 Worlds" books.—Jenni Frencham, formerly at Columbus Public Library, WI
Aliens invade, abducting almost everyone.
In this high-octane graphic novel series opener, creepy extraterrestrials have overrun Earth, deploying gargantuan robot "scoopers," collecting people ages 16 to 65. However, in addition to leaving children and the elderly, the aliens have also left behind anyone they deem useless, like the "disabled." Sixteen-year-old Sam and her twin brother, Wyatt, are in hiding, trying to rebuild the aliens' abandoned technological devices in order to ascertain where their parents might be located. With the help of a rough-and-tumble band of senior citizens, the twins make their way through an eerily analogous—albeit alien-run—landscape. Though never explicitly stated, Wyatt is seemingly on the spectrum. While sister Sam has always served as his protector, in a dramatic turn of events at one point in the story, it is up to Wyatt to become the hero. Cartoonist and teacher Walz (A Story for Desmond, 2015, etc.) tells his reader, "you might be surprised to find that whatever the world sees as 'different' is exactly what the world needs more of." Here he has created a masterful sci-fi tale with relatable characters, skillful worldbuilding, and cinematically designed illustrations that convey his message. Colorist Proctor has employed a muted earth-toned palette, using color to help easily distinguish flashbacks from present action. Sam and Wyatt are both white and fair-haired. Secondary characters are widely diverse in physical ability, age, and skin color.
Awesome. (author's note) (Graphic science fiction. 12-18)
Sam and her twin brother, Wyatt, now 16, lost their parents when aliens arrived on Earth three years ago and abducted everyone from 16 to 65 whom they believed could be useful (“We were left behind because we were either too young, too old, or too ‘disabled’ ”). Since then, Sam and Wyatt have resisted the occupation by infiltrating warehouses to rebuild alien communication technology and redistribute needed goods. After the aliens return and Wyatt acquires one of their transmitters, the kids become more ambitious, hoping to save humankind—along the way, people of all ages and abilities (a radio jockey, a band of fierce seniors) pitch in. Although the text avoids specific labels, Wyatt seems to be on the spectrum, and the art draws readers into his experiences. Clearly lined, uncluttered drawings by Walz (Homesick) focus on the action and characters, and skillful use of color indicates shifts in time: blue-grays for the past and earth tones for the present. Messages about valuing all humans (from an author’s note: “Whatever the world sees as ‘different’ is exactly what the world needs”) add meaningful layers to this fast-paced adventure featuring a cast of likable heroes and creepy, memorable aliens. Ages 12–up. Agent: Mark Gottlieb, Trident Media Group. (Oct.)
A Kirkus Reviews Best YA Science Fiction of 2018 Selection
"Walz’s art is accessible and deceptively simplistic, caught between being realistic and cartoony. It will appeal to kids who’ve come to love cartoons that have many of the same messages, from Steven Universe to Gravity Falls." —Paste Magazine
"A masterful sci-fi tale with relatable characters, skillful worldbuilding, and cinematically designed illustrations that convey his message."—Kirkus Review, starred review
"Strong character development, atmospheric art, villainous aliens, snappy banter, cheerworthy protagonists, and well-executed suspense should give this lots of broad appeal." —Booklist, starred review
"Messages about valuing all humans (from an author’s note: “Whatever the world sees as ‘different’ is exactly what the world needs”) add meaningful layers to this fast-paced adventure featuring a cast of likable heroes and creepy, memorable aliens." —Publishers Weekly
"An action-packed story with compelling art and dialogue and a cliff-hanger ending . . . A strong pick for reluctant readers. Give to fans of Margaret Peterson Haddix’s 'Shadow Children' series or Mark Siegel’s '5 Worlds' books." School Library Journal
“The story stands out in asking readers to consider that 'the world often has a narrow view of what success looks like.' This fun and thematically meaningful comic would be a great addition to classroom and library shelves.” —VOYA Magazine
"With Last Pick, Jason Walz has created a beautifully crafted science fiction graphic novel that is heartfelt, filled with endearing characters, and all too timely." —New York Times bestselling author Jeff Lemire