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Empty Hardcover – October 1, 2010
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From School Library Journal
Grade 7–10—Everyone knows that we will eventually run out of oil. Weyn takes readers 10 years into the future to the small New York town of Sage Valley to show just how that might feel. Gwen, Tom, Carlos, Niki, Brock, Hector, and Luke have the same problems as many typical teens. Outsiders Gwen and Luke have never known their father and now their mother has gone missing. Rich cheerleader Niki is trying to choose between two guys. In their world, though, gas is 40 dollars a gallon and rising. America has invaded Venezuela, the last country on Earth thought to have oil reserves. Food and medicine are scarce, the economy is a shambles, electricity can't be counted on, and now Hurricanes Oscar and Pearl have combined to form a superhurricane that is headed up the East Coast. Weyn's future has a grimly plausible feeling to it that will draw in readers. She does resort to a deus ex machina to save the day, and the characters and situations aren't fully fleshed out. Still, this should be of interest to those who appreciated Saci Lloyd's Carbon Diaries 2015 (2009) and Carbon Diaries 2017 (2010, both Holiday House) and any teens who wonder just what the world that they will inherit might look like.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In a not-so-distant future, the U.S. is at war with Venezuela over dwindling oil reserves, and global warming has created a super-hurricane causing destruction up and down the East Coast. In the gloom that is the end of the world, several teens are trying their best simply to survive. Gasoline is scarce, electricity comes and goes, and there is very little food to be had in the wake of the storm. Gwen, abandoned by her mother years ago, is trying to evade authorities looking for her brother, who was selling black-market gasoline; rich-girl Niki, whose father lost his job, has never had to face adversity in her life; and Tom, an all-around hero who lost his father to an illness, complete the love triangle. Though the characters and dialogue are sometimes routine, the realistic and thought-provoking scenario is packaged into a speedy read, and given the popularity of dystopian fiction, it should find an audience. Grades 5-8. --Shauna Yusko
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So, yes, "Empty" held a lot of promise for me. Unfortunately what it turned out to be was a book that read like a lecture aimed at ten-year-olds (or perhaps eight-year-olds), certainly not young adults - although the half-hearted attempt at romance and characters in their later teens seemed to indicate otherwise. The language and narrative style were so simplistic it was hard to get truly interested and the lecturing, the "message" came through so hard and clear that it occasionally nearly turned me off (and I'm by and large a supporter of the ideas being promoted here).
That's not to say the book was *all* bad - it was a quick and at times not completely dull read, and the characters, while not exactly engaging or with a huge amount of personality, weren't off-putting. Might be a decent read for a child / pre-teen who is interested in saving the planet and life without oil, I suppose.
Sage Valley is your average town full of middle class folks who work hard every day and live their lives as though nothing in the world will ever drastically change. When a global-wide oil shortage begins, however, they are in for a rude awakening. Suddenly kids are biking to school. Sports teams stop because they can't drive to the opposing schools. Gas costs $40, $60, then $90 dollars per gallon. People can't heat their homes. Medicines are in short supply. Food deliveries stop. Very quickly, people start to get desperate.
Tom is your average second-string football player who only worries about his crush, head cheerleader Nicki. When the gas shortage begins, his biggest concern is not being able to drive her home. Nicki's biggest concern is having to wear her glasses because there haven't been any deliveries of her contacts to the pharmacy in a long time. Gwen has gone from the outcast to the only kid who has a warm house thanks to her brother's black market dealings. As if the gas shortage wasn't the worst problem, the climate change is finally about to get the better of them. Two enormous hurricanes from the gulf coast and the East Coast merge and make their way up the East to practically destroy everything in their "superhurricane" path. Disaster relief is virtually nonexistent in the current times, and Sage Valley is left to survive by its own devices.
This is not only a story of how everything falls apart (although that is certainly in the foreground). It is also a story of how tragedy brings people together. How people in dire circumstances can become selfless. Heroes even. It is also a story of how things need to change if we are to survive. Towards the end of the story, the kids find a "Green" house that was built to be self-sustainable with low amounts of electricity, food production, and heat. Are we prepared for what is going to happen when the non-renewable resources we gobble up are gone?
In the deluge of apocalyptic books these days, this is a fairly good one, especially for adolescents. It directly deals with their lives and can be an eye-opener for just how drastically their worlds can change. Sometimes it is hard for kids to understand how things truly affect them, like wars, natural disasters, etc., until they are in their backyards. This book puts the disaster in the worlds of these kids. It is also a fairly short, low-skilled book that would be perfect for younger or low-skilled students. The plus is that it isn't nearly as depressing as some of the stuff out there. Sure everything changes, but that doesn't mean it needs to be the end of the world! We can still find ways to survive, even in circumstances we never thought we would face!