Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Wendy Spinale
For ages 12 and up
Scholastic Press, 2016   ISBN: 978-0545836944

A year ago Gwen was living a comfortable, normal life with her parents and her younger brother and sister. She worried about whether she needed a manicure or not, and took what she had for granted. Then the power-hungry queen of Germany sent her soldiers to invade the neighboring countries in Europe, and after crushing them she turned her eyes to England. The country was subjected to a blitz of bombs that left the place in ruins. Worse still, one of those bombs damaged a biological weapons lab, and as a result the Horologia virus was released into the population.

Most of the adults in London are now dead. The few children who remain are being targeted by the Marauders, the queen’s soldiers. Led by her son, Hanz Otto Oswald Kretchmer (who is known as Hook), the Marauders are trying to find and capture the remaining children, searching for the ones who might have an immunity to the disease. So far all the children Hook has captured and has taken to his captive researcher have not had the antibodies that might be used to create a vaccine or a cure. The researcher eventually tells Hook that the only person who has immunity is a girl. She is the only one who was fully vaccinated for the virus before the war.

In the ruins of what was once London, Gwen does her best to provide for her siblings and keep them safe from the Marauders. She is out looking for food when she encounters a strange boy. Though Gwen would love to connect with another human being of her own age, she does her best to stay away from him. She has to put the needs of her brother Mickey and her sister Joanne first. When she gets back to her hideout Gwen finds out that during her absence Joanne was taken by the Marauders. Gwen immediately decides that she has to save her sister before the poor child is experimented on and probably killed.

Without warning, Pete, the boy Gwen saw earlier, turns up. With him is a young orphan, Bella, whom he saved and who is now is faithful companion. Pete tells Gwen that he and Bella live in a hidden settlement under the streets of London. They call the place the Lost City and its residents, the Lost Kids, are all orphans of the war. Pete invites Gwen to join them in the city. There they will be safe from the Marauders and if she plans on getting Joanne back, Gwen is going to need help, which the Lost Kids can provide.

When they get to the Lost City, Gwen meets Doc, a prodigy who is working on finding a cure for the virus. She learns that all the orphans who come to the Lost City eventually contract the virus. For some reason girls seem to be less able to fight off the virus and Bella is the only female left in the Lost City. She is very ill and is only alive because of the medicine that Doc has been creating for her. Gwen is not sick at all, which suggests that she is truly immune and is therefore very valuable. In her blood are the antibodies that could be used to save all the survivors from the virus.

Gwen makes a deal with Pete. If she gives them some of her blood, as needed, to help save Bella and all the other Lost Kids, Pete and some of this best Scavengers will help her get her sister back. They all know that the mission they are going to undertake is going to be a dangerous one, but they never imagine that what they are going to find out soon will turn their lives upside down.

Readers will quickly see that the characters, and certain elements in this story, have their roots in the tale about Peter Pan. However, the author has created a narrative that is quite different from J.M. Barrie’s story. In Everland we are dropped into a steampunk world where everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. It is a grim and terrible place, a place where hope has almost been wiped out. And yet a handful of children and teens keep on fighting, and they keep on hoping that somehow they will have a future after all.

Wonderful characters and a gripping story will captivate readers who like tales that are full of adventures and surprises