Z for Zachariah
Robert C. O’Brien
Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2002<
First published in 1974
The first thing that goes are the radio stations. Then the electricity, taking with it any form of modern life. Ann wasn’t sure what happened at first; all she knows is that everywhere outside the valley is dead. Just over the ridge the landscape has absolutely no signs of life. The birds and creatures that venture into the wasteland don’t come back. Somehow the valley she lived in has escaped destruction. Her family left to go find other people, but they have been gone for a year – maybe more – she’s lost track of the days. She stayed behind to care for the farm animals and she has seen no one in all that time.
Ann has learned to live on her own and is planning next year’s crops when she sees a column of smoke on the horizon. Each day the column of smoke moves a little closer. One day she realizes that there is someone coming into her valley and although she is excited to see another person after so long, she is also very scared. Will she still be safe?
This young adult dystopian novel was written in the 1970s but is as equally powerful today. It shows a world that any one of us may face at any given time. Ann is 15 when the world as she knows it comes to an end and yet through sheer determination of will she survives. The man, Mr. Loomis, comes into her valley having survived only by using radiation-proof survival gear. Instead of working toward a common good – survival – there is a battle of power, control and wills. And Ann refuses to simply surrender.
This book is very well written and the story unfolds in an unfortunate, if not predictable, way. But I think the author wrote Ann into a corner where she had no choice but to make her escape into the dead world where her future was completely unpredictable. Were I writing it, Ann would have stayed put and Mr. Loomis would have been done away with by whatever means possible. For me, the book ended on a downward note, without much hope that the human race would survive.
Rating: 3 out of 5 paws