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The Only Ones, by Aaron Starmer

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Ah...book-buying holidays are coming up! Today I could look at all the books in the bookstore without feeling even the slightest flinch of guilt for planning to buy as many as possible. :)

I saw this book--The Only Ones, by Aaron Starmer, in the MG section. The cover looks cool. The synopsis sounds cool. I would like to read it, but more than that, I'm looking for a gift for my 11YO son, and while I've seen glowing reviews, I've seen several of them mention violence that the reviewers felt excessive for younger kids (ie the target age). That's kind of a subjective response, and I'm wondering if anyone here has read this book and knows what these reviewers might be referring to? The Hunger Games is way over my son's violence tolerance level, but he's enjoyed Brandon Sanderson's massive high fantasy (adult) The Way of Kings, which isn't all butterflies. He does enjoy thoughtful books where Stuff Happens but where the Stuff actually Means Something (he also loves Shaun Tan, for example), which is why the description seems particularly apt for him. And, it's really hard for me to find boy books that he hasn't read yet and that don't feel too simple to him. (Not in reading level strictly--he's just a more thoughtful, introspective, literary kid than my others.)

So--anyone read it?
#1 - October 22, 2011, 09:12 PM

I've read... the first chapter! So I can't tell you much yet. I'll let you know when I'm finished. I'd love to hear what others think about it.
#2 - October 22, 2011, 09:16 PM
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I'm looking at the author's blog--he's hilarious, definitely the kind of voice my son would love. Do come back, Whizbee, and let me know what you thought when you're done.
#3 - October 22, 2011, 09:28 PM

I haven't read it but was intrigued by your post and saw this in a customer review on Amazon:

This would be a wonderful read to introduce kids to the idea of post-apocalyptic fiction in a way that is subtle and not too scary. Fans of well written mysteries with a little magic and sci-fi should look here. Fans of post-apocalyptic fiction with a more subtle touch to it and a lot of mystery should also give this book a read.

So that seems encouraging.
#4 - October 22, 2011, 09:41 PM
Robin

Finished it.

First of all, this is one the most amazing books I've ever read. It's LOST, but with a satisfying ending and more heart. It's very unusual and mysterious and introspective... and really hard to pin down as far as intended audience. I'd say it's the kind of book that's labeled as being for kids but is maybe more for adults, but I'm not sure I can explain why I feel that way. I would definitely give it to a boy who wants an introduction to thoughtful science fiction, but it's hard for me to say if any particular 11-yr-old would be okay with the violence here (at age 11 I was reading horror novels, so it's all pretty subjective, right?).

So, on the note of violence, I'll say that most of the book is not violent--it's more of a "mood" mystery, if you know what I mean. It's not intense or scary. BUT there are a few incidents that might be difficult for a sensitive kid. I'll name them below while trying to stay vague enough not to spoil things:

SPOILER ALERT


One teen shoots another in the head with a shotgun, although no gore is described. The moment is very startling, but I wouldn't say it was terribly disturbing. More like, "Then X shot Y in the head with a shotgun. Y fell to the ground." (Obviously, there is more emotional reaction that follows, but you get that it's not terribly gory).
A teen runs into a burning building and never comes out--it's assumed he died in the fire, although no one is ever sure about this.
One teen shots someone in the head with a dart, but only to knock her out and not to kill, and the person survives
A large, heavy object falls on a teen, trapping him until he slowly dies. The scene is not drawn out or terribly emotional (although of course it's rather sad).
Several people get intense food poisoning and think they are going to die (but they survive).
#5 - October 27, 2011, 08:48 PM
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Ooh, sounds good, then! Thanks, Whizbee. Everyone has their own idea of what is too much for a kid, so it's great to get the basic facts. Sounds like my kid will be fine with that. As for intended audience, hm, if he doesn't like it, maybe I will claim it. :) Books with heart = my kind of book.
#6 - October 27, 2011, 09:19 PM

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I'm coming back to report that I did get the book for my 11YO son, and he did in fact enjoy it. I just read it, too--it was definitely different and interesting. I think if you liked When You Reach Me, you might like this one, although The Only Ones had a lot more action. I'm still thinking about it and how all the parts fit together. I really enjoyed it!
#7 - December 28, 2011, 09:59 AM

I'm glad he liked it. It's certainly unusual! (And I liked When You Reach Me too).
#8 - December 30, 2011, 07:56 PM
Where Futures End (Penguin/Dawson, 2016)
www.parkerpeevyhouse.com
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