In this tense, page-turning story of survival in near-future England, Jacob must go to all lengths to find his dog and escape to freedom with a gang of rebel children.
In a frighteningly real near future England, Jacob escapes from the Academy orphanage to reenter a world that is grimly recognizable. The Coalition can track anyone, anywhere, from a chip implanted at birth. Now Jacob must fulfill his promise to his parents, find his dog, Jet, and navigate his way out of England. Their only hope is a band of children who have found a way to survive off the grid: The Outwalkers. Their rules are strict, but necessary if they’re going to get out alive…
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence, References to drug use and prostitution
Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2018)
In a near future, England has closed its borders, microchipped its citizens, and forced children without two parents into orphanages that are an awful lot like prisons. When 12-year-old Jake’s parents die in a car accident, he is sent to live in a Home Academy to be educated and cared for. Jake escapes to find his dog, Jet, and keep the promise he made to his parents: to flee to his grandparents’ home in Scotland. They also made him promise to keep Jet with him always. But Jake’s chip is like a beacon to the hubbers, and he has no idea how to make the long walk to the border. He meets a group of teens and children who call themselves Outwalkers who agree to take Jake with them as long as he follows the rules. Poacher, with his braided hair and black skin, and Swift, with her pale skin and hard eyes, are the leaders of the motley group. Rumors of a deadly virus and the constant threat of capture haunt their journey. Slow pacing, a vague enemy, and unoriginal plot hamper the intriguing premise. Sacrifice, loyalty, and bravery are rewarded, but Jake’s naiveté quickly becomes irritating. The book adheres to the white default, Poacher a notable exception; that he speaks in an off-putting dialect when most of the rest of the characters do not is an unfortunate detail. A dystopic near future that never manages to come to life. (Science fiction. 8-12)
School Library Journal (January 1, 2019)
Gr 5-8-Jacob Riley escapes from an Academy Home, a Dickensian orphanage in a future England ravaged by a purported virus. He plans to rescue his dog Jet and find his grandparents in Scotland. Immediately upon his escape, Jake is betrayed by former neighbors and chased by government “hubbers” who track him by means of a chip in the back of his neck. Then both Jake and Jet are rescued by a gang of “outwalkers” who excise the chip and invite Jake and his dog to join them on their way north. The gang steals and scavenges food, medicine, and clothing to survive. With skill, luck, courage, and occasional help from strangers, they brave government agents and unscrupulous adults to escape to Scotland and share information that could save England from its totalitarian nightmare. The dystopian buddy trope is well worn, yet Shaw draws such vivid circumstances and strong characters that this novel is impossible to set aside for long. The plot is detailed and exciting, and allegorical comparisons with the present day are compelling. It would be utterly inspiring but for one glaring sexist remark in which a character named Ollie “throws like a girl.” VERDICT A strong additional purchase for collections in need of futuristic, dystopian middle grade fare.-Sheri Reda,
About the Author
Fiona was born in London in 1964. Her place of birth is now a hospital broom cupboard and her first home was on a street later obliterated beneath a superstore off the Cromwell Rd. However, she passed most of her childhood as the eldest of three girls in a lovely and spacious family home near the Thames.
Living in York with her partner and two daughters, Fiona reads a great deal, cycles everywhere, grows vegetables with variable success and acquires more films than she ever gets around to watching. She is working on her fifth novel.
Her website is www.fiona-shaw.com
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