I have been trying out some young adult/teen authors lately, and this book caught my eye. The story is set in the future – 2041 – and straddles the United States and Canada. The world’s petroleum has been mostly used up, and what little remains is strictly administered by the government. Most ordinary people can no longer use their cars. Almost everyone has shifted over to mass transit – buses, trains, and subways. Horses and bikes are also used to get around. People have returned to growing their own food if possible, and trading goods or bartering services. Molly is a teenager living on a Canadian island with her family, helping out with the farm.
Word comes that Molly’s grandmother in the U.S. has had a stroke. Telephone is gone and internet service is limited, but they manage to get through to the hospital, only to have the video-call dropped in the middle of the sentence: “I’m sorry, Mrs. Buckley is d -”. Was the nurse trying to say “discharged from the hospital” or “deceased”?
Unable to re-connect to the hospital for days, they finally decide to send Molly to Portland, Oregon to see if Grandma is still alive, and to check if Grandpa would like to move in with them. (Her older sister is busy planning her wedding, her father needs to take care of the farm, and her mother is in the later stages of a high-risk pregnancy.) So Molly leaves the island, sneaks across the border into the U.S., and laboriously works her way toward Portland in search of her grandparents.
I loved the way this novel was futuristic without being dystopian or science fiction-y. It really portrayed the way our continent could be in 25 years if we lost our easy supply of gasoline. Our reliance on cars fueled by inexpensive gasoline keeps our society going and our standard of living quite high. Most people would have an extremely hard time adjusting to the stay-at-home, fend-for-yourself lifestyle described in this book.
I also really liked the character of Molly. She didn’t whine and complain about the hardships of life, or that she had been sent on a difficult mission. She just did the best she could, handled obstacles as they came up, and never stopped showing love for her family. Organized crime, drinking, child neglect, and some violence are part of the storyline, so I would recommend it for readers over the age of 12.