Book Review

Book Review of Wanderer by Roger Davenport

Wanderer by Roger Davenport

Wanderer (Click to view the book on Amazon.)

The cover is terrible but the novel itself is a worthwhile read. Wanderer is a Y.A. dystopian mixed with a little bit of sci-fi set in a future where there are two societies living very different lives. There are the privileged living in the huge pyramid city of Arcone with all its comforts and regimented, sheltered beauty and then there are the wanderers scraping out an existence in the desert, living in the shadow of the pyramid, fighting for the barest of resources. The wanderer society reminded me of the Mad Max trilogy. They dig in the desert for remnants of the previous civilization, cobbling together vehicles out of junk found in the burning sand, squabbling over resources, and just barely making it in a very tough and ugly world.

"Even inside a good tent, temperatures were so high during the day that sleep was a kind of coma. The sun beat into your brain like a hammer. You breathed so shallowly you were hardly alive."

Many of the wanderers are rejects of the pyramid...children thrown out because of deformities caused by genetic experiments; taken in by wandering bands. They hunt the greenbacks at dusk:

"...you could lure them on by means of laying down a sheet of silver foil. They wanted to believe the shining surface was water, and when they came on, jigging left and right like fidgety children. They carried their heads high, and the dry mold on their backs shone a prismatic green when the sun hit them."

Kean is a teen boy in this desert world.

Essa is from the pyramid. Every need is provided for but there is no freedom for the pyramid's citizens. Life is highly controlled for their "protection". Expression and creativity stifled for the good of them all. Essa chafes and feels there is something...more. Always skirting the limits, she finds herself watched. There is something about herself that she doesn't know, and when her world and the world of the desert merge it will affect her destiny...and perhaps the destiny of them all, in the end.

There are lots of small plot lines that collide as the wanderers and the residents of the pyramid collide. Secrets are uncovered and Kean and Essa find themselves thrown together. As a team, they discover something that both worlds never imagined existed. I won't share it and spoil the ending, but it was worth reading to get to. At the end of the book, I was dying for MORE. I really hope there is a sequel. In some ways the ending was the most interesting part of the book, lol.

I enjoyed many of the interesting details in the world - Essa tending plants genetically modified to produce plastic, a treasured piece of the ancient past: a newspaper clipping about the Giants, the harsh and free environment of the desert contrasted with the safe but stifling environment of the pyramid.

There were parts of the novel that really were terrific and the characters of Kean and Essa were believable and yet they could have been expanded on even more. Kean is tough but still a kid. You can almost hear it in him when he talks and I had to smile at some of his awkwardness around Essa. During the course of the novel you see him finding his way and growing up a bit. Essa starts out as a solid character and then becomes more...intangible somehow toward the end when her story is mixed with Kean. It's like the writer couldn't handle both characters together as well as he could separately. Still, both were likeable.

Despite the fact that the novel kept me wanting to read until the very end, there are parts of it that really could have used some editing. There are some strange sequences that feel more like a summary and not all of the characters are fleshed out as good as they could have been. Some of it was just downright weird - mostly scenes revolving around the desert. I would have also liked much more detail about life in the pyramid. I felt like there were a great deal of potential that was wasted. The world building also wasn't as good as it should have been. You hear a bit of a story of how the pyramid came to be and what it's purpose was for but it was kind of trite and some of it was unbelievable (how the "children" were locked in - you'll see what I mean if you read it). There were also some parts that just felt like a bad dream where the details aren't clear enough and you just kind of slog through. It almost felt like that (thankfully small) portion was written by someone else altogether.

As for the intended audience, Wanderer is clearly for the Y.A. market, although it appealed to me, as an adult. There are no s*x scenes or anything inappropriate for even younger teens. While Kean and Essa are the perfect pair for a "romance" nothing along those lines is really fleshed out. If there is a second book, I could see the two being very close and developing more to their relationship. Despite it's flaws, Wanderer is an interesting read that had its own distinct dystopian flavor unlike any other book I've read in this genre. It's definitely worth reading, if you like these types of books and it's worth plugging through the slow parts to get to the end which opens up the possibility for a future book that could easily top this one by far!

*Note: As I read books I'm reviewing, I make notes in my Kindle so I can pass on any potentially inappropriate material to other parents reading my reviews. I don't have anything marked for Wanderer - no curse words, no s*x scenes, not even a romance (although the two main characters like each other it never develops into more). There is a bit of violence. I would hand this book over to a middle schooler with no qualms.

*I recieved a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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