by Angie Sage
Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins), 2019. 370 pages.
Review written October 15, 2019, from a library book
Here’s a dystopian children’s novel where the main character is a human who has the body of a giant cockroach.
I like the way Maximillian introduces himself:
I am Fly. Maximillian Fly. I am a good creature. I am not bad, as some will tell you.
But I see you do not believe me. You do not like my carapace and my broad, flat head, and I can tell that even my beautiful indigo iridescent wings do not persuade you of my goodness. I know that humans like you call me Roach – even though I am human too. Indeed I was once a squashy Wingless baby, just as you were. But I know very well that if I were small enough you would stamp on me without a moment’s thought. Ha! But luckily for me I am much bigger than you and, I have been told, rather terrifying. So we will have no more thoughts of the trampling and crushing of carapaces. They set my mandibles on edge.
As the story begins, Maximillian sees two children from the notorious SilverShip, “which every year takes a group of young ones away from Hope, never to return,” running away from three Enforcers. The smallest of the children has a hurt foot, and Maximillian does not think they will escape. So he decides to help – to prove he is a good creature.
But helping Kaitlin Drew and her brother Jonno starts a long chain of events that puts Maximillian in trouble, too. We learn about unpleasant aspects of the city of Hope, where they are “protected” by a giant electric orb from the “Contagion” on the “Outside.” Periodically, children get sent away on a SilverShip. They’re told it’s to a wonderful island paradise, on the Outside but safe from the Contagion. However, the children who leave never return.
Trying to save some children puts Maximillian on the wrong side of the Enforcers. Next thing he know, his home is being fumigated. On top of that, one of the children has something very important, which the Chief Guardian doesn’t want to lose.
Now, there are some major coincidences in this book, and some of the details of the world-building seemed like a stretch for me.
But who knew that I could ever come to care about a giant cockroach and fondly hope for his best interests? Even if that were the only fun thing about it (it’s not), this book would be worth the read.
A fast-moving story about a Good Creature trying to help.
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