One year ago everyone over the age of sixteen contracted a strange disease that rots away their bodies and destroys their minds. Now small groups of children fight to survive as the grown-ups they once depended on become the enemies who seek them as food.
The book follows three storylines: the Waitrose group (and Morrisons later), Small Sam, and Callum. The Waitrose group occupies the Waitrose supermarket in a mall in North London. They are led by Arran and Maxie and contain around 30 kids at the start of the story. This group later combines with the Morrisons group, from another supermarket in the neighborhood, to travel to Buckingham Palace, where there is a "safe" house.
Small Sam is abducted by a group of grown-ups in the first pages of the book. Everyone now believes him dead, but he escapes and now must try to reunite with his group. Callum is the only member of Waitrose who decides to stay behind. He is extremely xenophobic and plans to enjoy the new peace and quiet of having the store to himself.
The action is non-stop but believeable. People die, the journey is fraught with danger, but the violence never seems like too much. Oh, and the politics. In some places, I was reminded of Lord of the Flies, but not in an overt way. The "zombies" are still alive and the children are definitely traumitized.
My favorite character is Small Sam, who is only 9-years-old. He is so freaked out by his situation, but perserveres by imagining he is a character from a story, Sam Gamgee or Sam the Giant-Slayer. Yet, he has his weak moments, times when he just wants to go home and have his family back, to be held by his mother, to fight with his little sister.
And ultimately, that is what makes this story really work for me. The children, while forced to "grow up" and survive, are still children. They miss iPods, TV, and junk food. They sing TV themes and commercial jingles to cheer up. They even occasionally play.
So far, this is my favorite book this year!
PS I could only find a picture of the British cover. The American one is different. To be published in May.