April 03, 2015

The World Without Us

by Robin Stevenson
Orca Book Publishers
226 pp.
Ages 12-16
February, 2015

If we jump, the world will just go on without us. (pg. 2)

The we are teens Jeremy and Melody, their world is St. Petersburg, Florida, and the where is the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.  But only Jeremy jumps and now Melody is left to tell the story or rather stories, the one she knows and the one everyone else believes.

Jeremy, a junior whose 13-year-old brother died two years earlier, introduces himself to the rather reclusive Melody, who has been given the unkind moniker of Death Wish after an accidental poisoning at a party.  Because of their common appreciation for Albert Camus' writing and family experiences with death–Melody's parents are activists against the death penalty–Melody and Jeremy begin to form a bond, ostensibly one based on the finality of life. As Jeremy suggests,
If things get too bad, we can always check out, right?  Like Camus said, the when and how don't matter. (pg. 59)
Somehow their discussions about last meal choices, living with differences, reincarnation, and lucid dreaming take them to the point of no return, and their lives and relationship are forever altered.

Robin Stevenson has a knack for bringing thought-provoking tales to young readers, as she has with her Record Breaker (Orca, 2013), Hummingbird Heart (Orca, 2012) and Liars and Fools (Orca, 2010).  The World Without Us too delves into issues with which young people might be dealing: grief and guilt, suicidal thoughts, friendship and love.  And all these issues have them teetering on the edge of decisions, some involving life and death.  If The World Without Us doesn't convince you how quickly and tragically these issues can escalate for young people, then you'll only see this book as a story, not the cautionary tale about the repercussions of legitimate turmoil.  Robin Stevenson reminds us in her eloquent text that the fictional can become reality in a split second and with just a slip of time or even a misstep.

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