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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

MG Dystopian/Survival Story a Taut, Absorbing Read

(Image from author's website)

Maddie Harrison loves her little stepbrothers, but sometimes a girl needs a break.  That's why the 12-year-old decides to spend a night away, secretly having a sleepover in her grandparents' condo while they're away.  Her friends bail on the idea, but Maddie perseveres—and it's glorious.  Until she wakes up and finds that her entire town has been emptied while she sleeps.  Everyone she's ever known and loved is gone, leaving their cell phones behind.  What could possibly have triggered the exodus?  Is she the only one who's been left behind?  With no way to contact her parents, how is she ever going to find them?  And how will she survive without them?

As the days and weeks pass, it becomes apparent that no one is coming to rescue Maddie.  The more she explores, the more she realizes that the emptiness goes beyond just her suburb.  It's apparent that, somehow, Maddie will have to find a way to keep herself healthy and safe for the foreseeable future.  With only George, her neighbor's abandoned rottweiler, by her side, she has to forage for food and water, figure out how to stay warm during the upcoming winter, and keep them both safe from the threats all around them.  With boredom and loneliness weighing heavily on her, Maddie must keep dark thoughts at bay and keep going.  But for how long?  What really happened to her parents, siblings, and friends?  Are they ever coming back?  How many more months can Maddie survive all on her own?

Alone, a debut novel by Megan E. Freeman, tells a tense, harrowing story that will appeal to anyone who loves taut survival tales.  While its premise—a young girl sleeps blissfully on while a fairly large town is completely evacuated around her—seems awfully far-fetched, the rest of the plot feels disturbingly realistic.  Told in verse, it's a fast-moving, absorbing book that I buzzed through in one sitting.  It's easy to root for Maddie, who's brave, resourceful, and likable.  Kids will find her determination both admirable and empowering.  Although the story is scary in places and does get pretty bleak for a middle grade novel, it ends on a hopeful note.  Hand this one to reluctant readers, Hatchet fans, and kids who want a soft introduction to dystopian/post-apocalyptic type literature.  They'll eat it up, just like I did.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and other MG survival stories like The Canyon's Edge by Dusti Bowling and Storm Blown by Nick Courage)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and scary situations

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find


  1. It's told in verse? That's fun! I'll definitely be reading this one. :)

  2. I'll have to snag a copy of this for my son. He's not a big fan of reading most of the time, but he did love Hatchet.

  3. A survival story and a dog? Sounds good to me. I am ok with the far-fetched situation if it's told well.

  4. This sounds like Home Alone, only more terrifying. I love a good survival story, so thanks for putting this on my radar.


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