Children of the Different.
S. C. Flynn.
3.5 stars out of 5.
Nineteen years ago, a brain disease known as the Great Madness killed most of the world’s population. The survivors all had something different about their minds. Now, at the start of adolescence, their children enter a trance-like state known as the Changeland and either emerge with special mental powers or as cannibalistic Ferals.
In the great forest of south-western Australia, thirteen year-old Arika and her twin brother Narrah go through the Changeland. They encounter an enemy known as the Anteater who feeds on human life. He exists both in the Changeland and in the outside world, and he wants the twins dead.
After their Changings, the twins have powers that let them fight their enemy and face their destiny on a long journey to an abandoned American military base on the north-west coast of Australia. If they can reach it before time runs out.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.
Children of the Different is a Y-A post-apocalyptic book set in Australia. Twenty years previous a brain disease called the ‘Great Madness’ caused most of the world’s population to die. The few that remained either attempt to get by as best they can or have been turned into maddened ferals. When the children born to parents who survived the Great Madness reach puberty, they go into a trance like state/coma and enter the Changeland going through their own changing, either emerging with special powers or as a feral.
In short the book itself focuses on the twin lead characters of Narrah and Arika (a boy and a girl) who at the start of the story are getting near to their changing. They end up becoming involved in the conflict between the groups that survived the Great Madness setting the scene for the story and are thusly taken on a journey throughout the book. As their paths diverge from each other, leading to the twins becoming separated, you follow their individual story arcs before they find each other again in the books final third for the conclusion.
The characterisation in Children of the Different is really good and I liked both the two main characters, the telepathic twins, brother and sister: Narrah and Arika. Flynn does a great job of showing you how much they care about each other and the close bond shared between them. The villain of the book, The Anteater/Echidna is also really well depicted and has a menacing and ominous presence throughout the book. My favourite character has to be Toura though, a once close friend of the twins, but having gone through her changing previously, coming out with powers of prophecy and hardly speaking, that relationship had diminished due to her subsequent strangeness. However, along the twins journey we see the rebuilding of the relationship. There’s also Wirrin, another former close friend of the twins, taken years before by the ‘city people’ we also see the rebuilding of his friendship with the twins during the book. And, it’s a welcome addition, the theme of friendship and that it can endure time and changes.
There’s three distinct groups in the book. Those of the settlement where Narrah and Arika live who believe that technology was the cause of the Great Madness. Believing it is bad and should all be destroyed. Then we have the city people who feel that technology still has a place in the world and are trying to keep some of it going to maintain a way of life. And, finally a religious group, the hermits. All three groups are well realised, showing their different beliefs and differing ways of thinking. With the amount of technology in use today, it’s an issue that makes you think, would you side with the settlement or the city people?
For me Children of the Different, whilst there’s a lot going on in the book is ultimately the story of Narrah and Arika and their own personal journey leading them through their changing and into maturity. There’s some good ideas found in the book with the changing and the Changeland itself being the best. The vision quests that the twins go through whilst in the actual Changeland are really intriguing with a sense of dread filling the consequences about what would happen if they don’t find their way out in time. The three parts together (changing, vision quest and Changeland) are a rather ingenious idea that comes across really well in the book. The setting is great to and deserves a mention, as Flynn has diverted from using the far more standard US setting and instead sets the book in Australia. It’s wildlife and the references to Aboriginal culture within the book making for a refreshing change.
The writing style is descriptive and easy to read. Though at times I felt it was slightly to simplistic and at times repetitive for my liking. But that’s down to the genre of the book being Young-Adult and I feel that it would be ideal for fans of that genre and younger readers to. Especially those who haven’t yet become acclimatised to the heavy and complex prose of Adult books. With no swearing and only occasional violence, Children of the Different is a great book to get younger readers interested in a genre that doesn’t predominantly cater to them. Credit to Flynn for crafting a well thought out, intriguing and unique take on the genre that will appeal to the Y-A audience.
The cover art of the book also deserves a mention. It’s bright and vibrant and really stands out amongst the far more standard muted and darker tones of book covers for the genre, demanding to be looked at with its vividness. The usage of a variety of animals is also a good and intriguing idea. It’s not readily apparent what role the creatures will play in the book and how they will be incorporated into the story. You have to read the book to find out, but when you do, you realise the design fits perfectly and it gives you those ‘ah, I get it now’ moments while reading.
I’d have liked to have rated the book higher but ultimately Young-Adult isn’t really a genre for me. Sorry Y-A fans but generally I like some swearing, violence and gore in my fantasy and post-apocalyptic books. But……it was nice to forgo those elements for once and read something lighter in tone and slightly different while still being part of one of my favourite genres.
For fans of Y-A and younger readers there’s a lot to like in Children of the Different and I’d definitely recommend it to you. Likewise, adults and post-apocalyptic fans will also find enjoyment in the book to.
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