The Last Orphans is a Young Adult science fiction book with dystopian themes. This isn’t the first book by N.W. Harris I’ve read, which might be a recommendation of its own.
I won this book from the publisher when it was first released in October 2014. It’s been sitting in my Kindle queue for many months. Why?
Before I won the book, I interacted with the author, discovering the story has some graphic scenes of violence against the adults. Later, kids take up arms and are shooting each other. All of these are disturbing images, and the horror aspects of this story kept me away. After all, I had plenty of other reading choices.
What changed my mind? The second book in the series came out in April and so the title popped back into my news feed. I decided if I just read the book in the mornings while running on the treadmill, I shouldn’t run too serious of a risk of netting myself any nightmares.
Shane and his dad aren’t getting along. Shane has lost his mom and grandmother, and in the midst of this grief, strange events begin to happen. He gets the unfortunate experience of being present when an adult he cares about meets the crazed assassins of nature.
While he’s holding out hope that he can save this person, he meets up with his secret crush and her sister, only to learn the rampaging cattle he noticed earlier stampeded their parents. An tortuous vehicle ride later, watching another adult meet their end and discovering too many bodies to count, these three reach the high school gym where a bunch of other kids are gathered.
Even though Shane is neither the strongest nor the smartest, the kids defer to his leadership. They hatch a plan to evacuate to a nearby military base using school busses for transportation. While they’re out gathering supplies and gassing the buses, a group of juvenile delinquents attacks and terrorizes the kids remaining at the gym. (A heart-wrenching scene)
When they travel on toward Georgia’s capital, things get worse. At the military base, they discover the soldiers have survived but are now turning on each other. A radio transmission explains the cause of all the strange events (government project gone wrong) and gives these teens an objective.
In the end, they manage to stop the craziness, but the body count is high.
This book earned four stars from me in my Amazon and Goodreads reviews.
The story was well-constructed and moved along at a steady pace. By the mid-point, I found myself reading it on my lunch break as well as the treadmill. I wanted to find out how they would survive. You will too.
Most of the characters didn’t move or interest me. I was particularly disappointed in Shane. Not that he didn’t have courage, skills and a good heart. He just wasn’t the best choice of leader. The author didn’t convince me that Shane should lead, so it felt contrived that the other kids wouldn’t choose someone more popular as their leader.
The horror aspect of the story is real – and revolting. The more critical issues of teen-on-teen crime was handled with finesse. Even though we hate to see kids hurting each other, their motivations are realistic and well-drawn. The crimes aren’t glorified or exaggerated. Harris showed himself a skilled writer in his handling of these events.
After the ever-increasing pace of the narrative, the ending rushed in and tied things up too neatly. It truly felt like a set-up for the sequel. If you’ve read many of my reviews, you know how I feel about that.
If you enjoyed the Gone series by Michael Grant, you should read this book. Even though the plots are dissimilar in many ways, many of the themes are the same. The biggest question: how would young people survive if all of the adults suddenly disappeared?
I caution parents and younger readers about the graphic content in this book. Being covered in cockroaches is horrifying to imagine. If the cockroaches have the intention to kill? It’s worse. Nightmarish. If you have a vivid imagination – like me – I would recommend reading the book during the middle of the day.