Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Book Review: Z for Zachariah by Robert O’Brien

Pros: tight, tense storytelling, interesting characters

Cons: limited world-building

For parents: no content (swearing, sex, drugs), minor gun violence

Fifteen year old Ann Burden has been living - alone - in her family’s farmhouse for the past year.  Her family - and as far as she knows everyone else in the world - is dead, victims of the war and the bombs that fell.  So she has mixed emotions when she sees a column of smoke each night, getting closer to the valley that’s protected her.  She knows someone is coming.  But what does this arrival mean for her? 

This is a short novel, told through Ann’s journal entries starting when she first realizes someone is coming.  It details his arrival and the slowly unfolding drama that occurs afterwards.  It’s a tight, tense story, that slowly becomes dreadful as you wonder how everything will play out.

It’s a story worth coming to with little advance knowledge, as it really depends on learning things with the character.  I really liked Ann.  She’s a farm girl - and so knows how to do things that are useful in a post-apocalyptic survival situation, like catch, prepare and cook fish, plogh a field, etc.

There’s very little backstory.  We learn where Ann’s family has gone and how the stranger arrives, but little else.  There’s no information about what the war was about or who it was with or what kinds of bombs were dropped, beyond that they were highly radioactive.

It’s a great story that kept me on the edge of my seat.  

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