Book Review: The Young World

The Young World
Author: Chris Weitz 
Published By: Little, Brown Books 
Publication Date: July 29, 2014 
Page Count: 384 
Buy it at Amazon or Barnes & Noble 
Source: Advanced Readers Copy from Barnes & Noble 
Audience: Young Adult - Dystopian 

Chris Weitz has created a world that every teen has probably dreamed of; a world with no adults, no children, and no pregnancy. But I can promise you, it's not a world they would enjoy for very long. 

The Young World, first in an action-packed, fast-paced trilogy, is about a Dystopian society; a futuristic world where a powerful disease - nature at its harshest or a biological weapon gone terribly wrong, they don't know - seemingly killed every adult and child not going through puberty. The teens that are left now have to face a new harsh world alone and learn how to survive; at least until they are through growing because then they die as well. 

The story is written from two different first person points-of-view. The male character, Jefferson, and his love interest, Donna are the quasi-leaders of their misfit tribe living in Washington Square in New York. When one member of their group, a genius of sorts, thinks he can find a cure for the disease, the three of them along with two other kids set out on a mission to save teenkind. Along their journey they meet, fight, and kill many other teens also trying to survive in a world of utter chaos. They learn how these other survivors have coped and dealt with what life has thrown them since 'It Happened.' New kids join their quest of hope and sadly, some don't survive. It's a harrowing traipse through the streets of New York City. The conclusion to the journey of these five friends is not at all what they expected and they soon realize it is only the beginning to a much longer struggle.

I feel that The Young World is definitely the beginning to a trilogy, part of a bigger whole. It was a quick read and can be read on its own, but it's not one that you want to read as a stand alone. The book is one long walk through New York, with daily skirmishes, but there isn't one big climax or peak to the story. I would say the point where everything changes is the very last page, and that is why you want to pick up the next book, to find out what happens next. 

Weitz does a great job of putting you into the mindsets of the characters. As a reader, you can clearly distinguish the thoughts of both Jefferson and Donna, and slip easily between the two. The storyline was well thought out, aspects that you would expect to see in a post-apocalyptic society are there at every turn of the street corner, maybe even with surprising twists you hadn't yet thought of. Once the teenagers are through with puberty they die as well, and to me they seem to die pretty quickly, less than a day. The beginning of the disease, when the adults and children were dying seemed to go a bit slower. I'm not sure if that was on purpose, or just me reading too much into it. 

As an advanced readers copy of the book, you would expect to see a good number of errors not yet spotted by the editor, but one glaringly obvious one is an inconsistency about half way through. A member of their group left behind in Washington Square suddenly appears midway through the story and then disappears a few pages later. Hopefully that one was spotted before its publication. 

The Young World is the first book for Chris Weitz, well-known director of Twilight: New Moon, About a Boy, American Pie, and Golden Compass (among others), but I can see many more in his future. With Weitz's foot well planted in the door of film, I wouldn't be surprised to see The Young World one day on the big screen. 

After a mysterious Sickness wipes out the rest of the population, the young survivors assemble into tightly run tribes. Jefferson, the reluctant leader of the Washington Square tribe, and Donna, the girl he's secretly in love with, have carved out a precarious existence among the chaos. But when another tribe member discovers a clue that may hold the cure to the Sickness, five teens set out on a life-altering road trip to save humankind. The tribe exchanges gunfire with enemy gangs, escapes cults and militias, braves the wilds of the subway and Central Park...and discovers truths they could never have imagined.