Friday, 21 December 2012

The Only - Karen Guyler

England 2025 and after a flu pandemic sends the whole country into disarray, British citizens now live in a true nanny state. Obedient to a fault, they scurry away from the army tanks patrolling the streets and everyone is at home when curfew hits. Breaking any rule by the government and it's likely you'll 'disappear'. It's a country where you dare not leave home with a cut finger or voice your opinions lest one of your neighbors informs on you to the Government in return for rations or extra credit.

Not knowing what the world was like, where everyone had a car, went on holidays or when the internet was prolific, Maya - an intelligent 16 years old - used to ask her mum about these things. But since her father died, she concentrates on school. One of the few who loves going, she underplays her intelligence all with the hopes of being offered a place at Science Academy. Working there, means she could work on a cure for her brothers auto-immune disease. So when she has a sudden blackout that causes her to drop the last bottle of Coralone, the medicine keeping Sebastian alive, she begins a harrowing journey to replace the much needed substance.

With her best friend Jace, they leave the safe haven of Milton Keynes. She doesn't tell her mum where she's going or when she'll be back. The relationship is strained enough and finding more medicine may redeem her.  With a few supplies they bike to London in search of Coralone; will they reach the city safely so Maya can save her brother? But as they make the hazardous trip, feelings are revealed and questions arise over what the government are actually doing in this post-pandemic world...and the answers are shocking.

This debut novel is a turbulent, frightening and thought-provoking story. Maya's quest seems a simple one - get more medicine - but her naivety over how Britain is being run slams into her head on as each road (literal or not) she takes leads her questioning, why are we just accepting everything that is being told to us? Guyler creates enough tension and drama with a few moments of black humor thrown in, pushing the story along. Her characters are strong, well defined and although it is written from Maya's point of view, you don't really miss out on what others are thinking/feeling. The descriptions are few but the dialogue creates the atmospheric picture. Building up to a revealing, unexpected ending, Maya's determination to save her brother is her courage in the face of adversity.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Whilst I'm not a fan of the 'dystopian' genre, I found this novel completely absorbing and practically read it in a day. I found Maya a little annoying but it's a true testament of good writer that they can bring out such emotions from a reader. Page after page the plot thickened, twisted and turned creating a tense drama and depicted a Britain, or any country, that isn't far from becoming so strictly governed. The ending has created an opening for a book two and I certainly can't wait to read if that's the case. A highly recommended read.

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