March 26, 2014

The Worlds We Make

by Megan Crewe
Disney Hyperion
288 pp.
Ages 12+
February, 2014

At the conclusion of Megan Crewe's The Lives We Lost (reviewed here on May 28, 2013), a hapless group of young people were leaving inhospitable Toronto to attempt to deliver a vaccine to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia in the hopes that the CDC would be able to mass produce the vaccine needed to save those uninfected with the widespread and deadly virus. The group, led by Kaelyn whose father had produced the vaccine, consists of Gav, her boyfriend, who she'd met while fighting the virus in their island community; Leo, her former best friend who had just returned to the island after making his way from New York City; Tobias, a young soldier who rescued them from the island; Justin, a reckless fourteen-year-old who'd forced them to take him; and a new recruit, Anika, a former ally of the scary Wardens and their leader Michael.  But getting the vaccine to the CDC is far more difficult than just finding a vehicle and gasoline to get it there.  The group must outwit and escape the omnipotent Michael and his legions of Wardens who are determined to get the vaccine for themselves.  So begins The Worlds We Make, the conclusion to Megan Crewe's Fallen World Trilogy.

Heading south in an SUV stolen from Michael's well-organized and well-supplied gang, Kaelyn and her entourage continue to deal with incredible snow storms and the fear that Gav and possibly Tobias have become infected with the virus.  A flat tire lays them up in a small town, searching for a new tire and supplies, attempting to contact the CDC by radio and, worst of all, isolating the now delusional Gav from all but the immune Kaelyn.  Gav's death leaves Kaelyn reeling, though his message to her on a scrap of paper in his jeans compels her to keep focused on getting to Atlanta. 

The group's journey is essentially a series of driving episodes interjected with stops to search for supplies and encounters with individuals or evidence of those who are no longer around (having died or left). Mostly they are observers of phenomena from fire balls in the sky, to a suicide victim, a well-stocked hunter's cabin, a commercial pig farm where the animals were left caged to die, and isolated communities of people, sometimes welcoming, sometimes not.  Though they connect with a Dr. Guzman at the CDC who prepares for their arrival and analysis of the vaccine for production, their capture by Michael's Wardens suspends their travels and threatens their only goal and their lives.

While the plot is very directed i.e., the group endures different horrors as they attempt to reach the CDC, the story is bigger than the plot in The Worlds We Make.  It has more to do with the premise of creating a world we choose, not as we deem it to be as thrust upon us.  Sure the epidemic changed everything and everyone is reacting to that change.  Some don't change their ways at all and may remain safe or may become victims.  Some completely alter their behaviour, such as Michael who was formerly a policeman and now uses the knowledge he learned to successfully establish a criminal organization, based on fear and hostility.

Kaelyn begins to see their world as a new dynamic, based on survival and power, essentially without room for empathy.  Every choice they make now must be weighed against the potential for infection, attack and successful delivery of the vaccine.  Trust is a commodity in short supply.  Anika, the last to join their group, constantly looks ready to run.  Justin's bravado covers his insecurities related to his youth, his interest in Anika, and even his desire to make amends for his perceived lack of effort. Kaelyn is less able to edit her comments, never realizing the effect they have on others around her.  That is, until she comprehends that they see her as a leader, their leader, and she must not refrain from showing how much she values them just to avoid the hurt of losing them.

The world that Megan Crewe has created is one of desperation and paranoia.  The bad is often highlighted because it is overwhelming and tragic, but there are slivers of goodness like freshly-baked bread and home-made sandwiches, hugs of reassurance, and a simple smile.  The strength of character with which Megan Crewe has imbued Kaelyn carries the reader, as well as the group, to a surprising resolution to create a new actuality where bad and good must come together to make something better.

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