Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review: Wasteland by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan

by Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan
Expected Publication Date:  March 26, 2013
Publisher:  Harper Teen
Source:  Publisher/NetGalley

"At fifteen, the citizens of Prin marry.
At seventeen, they reproduce.
And at nineteen, they die.

Esther is fifteen.
She has four years left."

Welcome to the Wasteland. Where all the adults are long gone, and now no one lives past the age of nineteen. Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan’s post-apocalyptic debut is the first of a trilogy in which everyone is forced to live under the looming threat of rampant disease and brutal attacks by the Variants — outcasts that live on the outskirts of Prin. Esther thinks there’s more to life than toiling at harvesting, gleaning, and excavating, day after day under the relentless sun, just hoping to make it to the next day. But then Caleb, a mysterious stranger, arrives in town, and Esther begins to question who she can trust. As shady pasts unravel into the present and new romances develop, Caleb and Esther realize that they must team together to fight for their lives and for the freedom of Prin.

My Thoughts:  In this post apocalyptic novel every day is a struggle for survival.  Water is no longer safe to drink, food is scarce, the rain is poison like acid, and the sun's rays can kill.  This is the world that 15-year-old Esther lives in.  This is the only world she has ever know.  Kids and teenagers now make up civilization, if you can call it that.  Practically all are illiterate, with the exception of a very few.  Esther can read a little.  Her older sister Sarah, who is 17 and reads very well, taught her.  Unfortunately, it isn't a skill that is regarded as necessary in the world anymore.  Children are partnered (what we would considered married), by the time they are 15 at the oldest.  Very few are able to conceive, and for those that do, only 1 out of every 5 babies manage to survive.  Then they have the issues of the sickness, and if someone gets that, they are immediately shunned and sent out to die.  There are also the Variants to deal with, and Esther's best friend Skar just happens to be one.  Variants are beings that decide their gender at the age of 10.  They are also partnered after that.  Though they look nothing like the humans, they talk, have feelings, etc. and really, inside aren't that different.  

Unfortunately, the humans want nothing to do with the Variants, and the Variants want nothing to do with the humans, except for Skar and Esther that is.  In fact, the Variants have been attacking the town of Prin where Esther and the other humans live and work, gleaning, searching for anything left of use to trade for water and food, which is kept at "The Source," a large complex run by another boy Levi and his soldiers.  Sarah taught Levi to read when he was younger, and he has used that along with his natural abilities to become a leader, and can be a very manipulative one at that.  

When a strange new boy comes into town one day, everything changes.  Caleb, who knows how to fight the variants, is recruited after saving one of the townspeople in the hopes of teaching them what he knows about fighting.  Caleb is on his own quest though, determined to find the cause of his family's death, and little does he know many answers lie within the boundaries of Prin.  One thing he did not expect to find in Prin was love, which he finds with Esther, something she wasn't looking for either, but when troubles escalates and threats and danger increase, will Esther, Caleb and the townspeople of Prin be able to survive?

Wasteland is a dystopian novel that has some interesting premises.  I enjoyed the beginning of the book and the friendship that Esther and Skar shared, and I did like Esther's character.  Esther was more interested in having fun than working, and most of the time she did just that.  I enjoyed Caleb's character also.  The other townspeople were not very impressive though, and the parts of the story where Esther had dealings with them tended to be a little slow for my taste.  I would have liked to have seen a little more time spent on the relationship between Esther and Caleb.  One day they meet and then they are partnering before you know it, which seemed a little too rushed, missing the opportunity for some great character building, which I think would enable the reader to connect with the hero and heroine on a deeper level. I would have liked to know more about how the world got into the shape it was in also.  

Wasteland did have it's exciting and surprising moments to, and the ending felt satisfying.  I wasn't overly impressed with this book, but it wasn't awful either, and if you are a fan of dystopia then you may want to check this out.  

About the Authors:
SUSAN KIM is currently writing a YA trilogy with her partner, Laurence Klavan. The first volume, WASTELAND, will be published by HarperCollins in March 2013; it will be followed by WANDERERS and GUARDIANS. In addition, she has written graphic novels, documentaries, plays, short stories, and children's TV. She wrote two graphic novels, CITY OF SPIES (artwork by Pascal Dizin) and BRAIN CAMP (artwork by Faith Erin Hicks), both with Laurence Klavan. FLOW: THE CULTURAL STORY OF MENSTRUATION, her first non-fiction book, was co-written with graphic designer Elissa Stein.
Her stage adaptation of Amy Tan's THE JOY LUCK CLUB has been produced internationally. She has also written many darkly comic one-acts which have been produced by Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York City and around the country; GUTS was also produced as a short film which was shown on PBS. DREAMTIME FOR ALICE and MEMENTO MORI are available from Dramatists Play Service and Farrar Strauss. She wrote and co-produced the documentary, IMAGINARY WITNESS: HOLLYWOOD AND THE HOLOCAUST; the DVD is available from and netflix.
She has also written more episodes of children's TV than you could imagine possible for series such as ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK, ARTHUR, READING RAINBOW, HANDY MANNY, DRAGON TALES, and a zillion others.

LAURENCE KLAVAN wrote the novels, "The Cutting Room" and "The Shooting Script," which were published by Ballantine Books. He won the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for the novel, "Mrs. White," written under a pseudonym. His graphic novels, "City of Spies" and "Brain Camp," co-written with Susan Kim, were published by First Second Books at Macmillan. Their Young Adult series, "Wasteland," is forthcoming from Harper Collins. His work has been published in such print and online journals as The Alaska Quarterly, The Literary Review, Conjunctions, Natural Bridge, Louisville Review, Gargoyle, Pank, Stickman Review, The Dirty Goat, Straylight, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Playgirl, CafĂ© Irreal, Frigg, Foliate Oak, Brink, Conte, Literateur, Skive, Hamilton Stone Review, Killing the Buddha, Pig in a Poke, Morpheus Tales, Barnstorm, Flare: The Flagler Review, among others, and a collection is forthcoming from Chizine.  He received two Drama Desk nominations for the book and lyrics to "Bed and Sofa," the musical produced by the Vineyard Theater in New York and the Finborough Theatre in London in 2011. His musical, "Embarrassments," also co-written with composer Polly Pen, was produced by the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia. His one-acts, including "Sleeping Beauty" and "The Show Must Go On," have been produced by such theaters as Ensemble Studio Theater and Manhattan Punchline in New York, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and many others. His one-act, "The Summer Sublet," produced in the EST Marathon in New York, is included in Best American Short Plays 2000-2001. His theater work is published by Dramatists Play Service. His website is


  1. I was looking forward to this one, but from what I can tell is just alright. :( I'll probably wait and see if my library carries it. Great review.

    Jenea @ Books Live Forever

  2. I have heard that the world building is lacking but the story sounds decent. I'm going to wait for more books to come and see what the reviews are saying before I read this one I think.

    1. It was good, but had the potential to be a lot better.

  3. I am really hoping if there is a sequel that there is more to Caleb and Esther's relationship. this was a good read, not great but fair. I am glad you somewhat enjoyed it as well.

    1. I do to. I haven't heard if there is a sequel, but I hope so to I would definitely read it.

  4. I love your review of this!! I'm sure I will want more for Caleb and Esther, too; but everything else sounds like just my cup of dystopian tea! Thanks for sharing <3


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