Saturday, May 7, 2011

Review of Numbers: The Chaos by Rachel Ward

Ward, Rachel.  Numbers: The Chaos. Chicken House, 2011.

It's 2026 and England is getting very wet as climate change is causing the ocean to slosh over its perimeter.  There are power outages and food shortages.  Nope, this isn't Carbon Diaries - it's the sequel to Numbers.

On the chilling last page of Numbers, we learn that Jem's baby has inherited her ability to look into someone's eyes and see the date they will die.  In The Chaos, that baby is a troubled teen named Adam, and he has just moved to London, where he realizes something horrifying - an astounding number of people have the same death dates, clustered around the first few days of January 2027.  Something truly horrible is going to kill thousands of Londoners in less than 6 months.

Sarah, a girl in Adam's class, has been having terrible nightmares.  In particular, she dreams that Adam is walking with a baby into a wall of flames.  And she's got some pretty horrendous problems at home, causing her to run away from home.

As January 1, 2027 looms, the plot spirals into a fever pitch of terrifying, claustrophobic tension.  No one will believe the teens that something horrible will happen, no one will do anything - and Adam and Sarah feel powerless to change anything or even save themselves.

Although Adam and Sarah are drawn toward each other, this is not the intense and sweet doomed romance of Adam's parents Jem and Spider; this is much more of a thriller than Numbers was.  The Chaos is an intense knuckle-biter of a dystopian nightmare ride, and teens will throw their hands in the air and scream eagerly the whole time.  The exact nature of the January 1 catastrophe isn't revealed, or at least not its cause - there seems to have been some kind of bombing, but also some kind of earthquake.  This vagueness makes the event even scarier, but it also makes the future uncertain.  Has London been attacked?  Are there more terrible natural disasters in store?  It's hard to imagine what will happen next when we aren't sure what just happened, but surely there's a lot more hardship in store.

Recommended for older teens who are fans of dystopian fiction.

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