Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Ellisa Barr
For ages 13 and up
Skyscape, 2015   ISBN: 978-1477829943

A year ago Dee’s little brother died, and ever since then her family has been broken. In an effort to get their lives back on track, Dee’s parents have decided to go on a vacation together for a week. Dee is going to stay with her grandfather, who lives on a farm “in the backwoods” of northern Washington state.

Being stuck on a farm without cell reception, an internet connection, or a computer is terrible. Staying with an old man who has a very simple life with no frills does not appeal to Dee either, even though she is very fond of her grandfather. She decides almost at once that she will go to Lookout Falls, the nearest town, and get on a bus so that she can go back home to Maryland.

As soon as she can, Dee borrows Grandpa’s old stick shift truck and heads to Lookout Falls. Grandpa thinks she is going there to meet some other young people her own age, not knowing that her plan is to head home. On the way to town, Dee sees a young man standing by the side of the road thumbing for a ride. Normally she would never dream of stopping to pick up a hitchhiker, but for some reason she does so now. Soon she and Mason are on their way, and Dee finds out that there is no bus station in Lookout Falls.

Dee is driving along when suddenly she loses control of the car and it crashes. When she comes to she has a cut on her forehead and Mason is doing her best to patch her up. Mason manages to get the truck working again and then drives them into town so that Dee can be looked at at the clinic. When they get to town they discover that something really strange is going on. Cars are parked in the middle of the road, people are wandering around at a loss, and there is no power. The clinic is packed with people who have been injured because their vehicles, just like Grandpa’s truck, suddenly stopped working.

A fire breaks out, and with no power, no water, and no radio, the firefighters need all the help that they get to get. Dee and Mason do everything that they can to help, pushing and driving cars out of the way, and ferrying people to the clinic and to their homes. The last person they drop off invites them into his home, where his wife Jennifer offers the young people some refreshment. Jennifer tells her guests that she thinks that an EMP is responsible for the loss of power, the cars shutting down, and the lack of cell reception. She tells them that she thinks a nuclear detonation must have caused this EMP, and that life is going to get a lot worse before it gets any better. She advises Dee to go to the grocery store and to buy food items that will last long term, things like canned goods, flour, beans, sugar, oil, and rice.

Unfortunately Grandpa’s truck runs out of gas before Dee can make it back to the farm, and so she has to walk the rest of the way, locking the supplies she bought in the truck’s storage box. When she gets home Dee is exhausted and is resting when Grandpa comes in from doing the evening chores, which is when he has what he calls “an episode.” It turns out that he has a pacemaker in his chest to correct an irregular heartbeat, and in all likelihood the EMP that took out cars, phones, and the power grid also damaged his pacemaker. Dee tells her grandfather her whole story and then they talk through what they are going to have to do to survive this disaster. One thing is clear. Dee is going to have to learn how to cook and farm, and she is going to have to learn how to do so really fast.

Dee almost loses grandpa when he has another episode, and while he is recovering she has to learn how to milk the cows and manage the farm all on her own for a while. Thankfully, it turns out that Grandpa has some wonderful neighbors and, pooling their resources, they all work together to produce as much food as they can. Things start to look a little more hopeful until the day when Dee and one of the neighbors, Hyrum, goes to town to retrieve Grandpa’s truck. They then find out that life in Lookout Falls has become truly dire. A vengeful police chief is in charge and no one is safe. Worse still, Mason is under arrest for stealing, and the police chief plans on executing him for his crime.

This riveting novel explores what it would be like to live in a world after an EMP event has taken place. It is fascinating to see how Dee, who initially does not know how to take care of herself at all, copes with the challenges that she is presented with.