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School for survivors

By Linda Schoales, editor

Jan 25, 2010: The listing for “Ash and Zabe” links to a web site which now has the title “There you will feel free”. The story seems to be presently in hiatus but there are 9 long chapters posted. The story is about two children who are taken from their homes and told that their families are dead. They’re taken to a hidden school for orphans from around the world. This world seems to be in a constant state of war, with isolated populations surviving with different levels of technology.

Zabe is an 11-year-old girl from a desert colony. Ash is an 11-year-old boy from a city which has maintained most modern technology. The story starts right in with Zabe hiding and then being hustled onto a helicopter, something she’s never seen before. The second chapter switches to Ash as he gets picked up and meets her. Their flight and arrival at the school together forms a bond which keeps them together even as they meet new people.

The initial premise of the story is interesting but it’s told in third person, present tense, which creates a bit of distance from the characters. Most of the chapters focus on a single incident or short period of time so the reader get lots of details but not much happens. The jumps in time between the later chapters are a bit disorienting. It’s not always clear how much time has passed.

The chapters always feature Ash and Zabe talking alone, so you get a feeling of their isolation in the school. Other characters are mentioned or appear briefly. They step “onstage” for a purpose, which isn’t always clear, and then disappear. The place seems oddly empty for a school. We don’t even get a sense of what they’re being taught in the first few chapters. Later, it seems to be about survival, but even then there seems to be a lot of unanswered questions. There seems to be a lot of secrecy at this school and suspicion between the teachers and students.

I was hoping more would become clear in the later chapters but I was still left with questions when I finished reading. I hope the author continues at some point because the background story seems like it should be interesting. If you like young adult novels set in a post-apocalyptic world, you should find this story interesting.

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