Monday, January 5, 2015

Pretty Much Like Every Post-Apocalyptic Novel Out There for Teens

Source: Author Website
Autumn in the City of Angels (Autumn #1) by Kirby Howell (Streetlights Publishing, 2013, 362pp.) 

After 90% of the world’s population is killed off by the Crimson fever, Los Angeles lays at the mercy of rivaling factions of survivors. As 17-year-old Autumn Winters tries to navigate these different groups, she meets a mysterious young man named Gray, and feels an instant and unquestionable connection to him. After they’re separated, she goes looking for him, and finds that he's part of a group living in the abandoned L.A. subway. Unfortunately for Autumn, this group is the rival of the Restoration Front, the most aggressive, nasty bunch of survivors in the area that will stop at nothing to wipe other groups out. As the two bands vie for survival, Autumn learns that her love interest, Gray, is actually hiding a secret that could prevent the two of them from ever getting together. 

The only way to review this kind of book is to review it first as a teen romance, and then as a post-apocalyptic novel. While I was reading this, it made me realize that I have forgotten how much I can’t stand mushy teen romance. Autumn’s frequent mention of her love interest’s mind-blowing physique/piercing blue eyes really got on my nerves—but then again, I’m pretty sure the author’s target audience for this book wasn’t cynical library assistants in their late twenties. Instead, I probably should ask: Will this novel appeal to teenage girls? If the girls in question are former Twihards suffering from Improbable Romance Withdrawal Syndrome, then yes. They will probably find Gray and Autumn’s attraction to one another quite appealing. Is Autumn herself an attractive heroine/role model for young girls? To tell the truth, she’s kind of flat—but then again, so is Bella from Twilight, and most every other heroine in this kind of genre.

As for the science fiction elements of this novel: they could use some work. The most glaring detail is, as one Amazon reviewer pointed out, the curious lack of bloated corpses left behind after the initial wave of fever-deaths. Yes, the heroine does come across a body inside a parked car on the Los Angeles freeway, and another survivor reports clearing an entire apartment building of bodies weeks after the fact…but there never seems to be any problem with unpleasant odors that are usually found lingering in the wake of such a disaster. (Perhaps one of the symptoms of Crimson fever is rapid decomposition upon death?)

In any case, it’s a perfectly nice, clean book for tween girls looking for something to swoon over. Compared to every other book in the dystopian/post-apocalyptic genre, its flat characters and their attempts to deal with their situation don’t really stand out at all. Recommended for girls Ages 13-15.

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