Z for Zachariah
Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had gone out of my way to get a copy of this book and the effort was well worth it. It's an excellently written story, kept simple so the focus is clear. It's about humans destroying the world; survival; holding on to values; hope; and the misuse of power. The details of many of the themes, such as Loomis' possessiveness, are cleverly layered in to the narrative. It reinforces something I've suspected for years: a well-written young adult novel can be just as engaging and tense as something which is more gratuitous, and in many cases the restraint shown actually enhances the story.

I have read some other reviews, and those who are dissatisfied with the novel often mention that they wish Ann had shot Loomis. She had a number of opportunities, and if she had taken them she could have saved Faro. I think this is perhaps more of an issue for a modern audience. Ann is true to her character and that is commendable, though I also found myself thinking "At least shoot him in the arm or leg, disarm him, take back what is yours." Two other aspects of the novel struck me as oversights. Why didn't Loomis hide the cart, lock it away? It was so important to him it seems strange that he left it in the open even after the conflict started. The other issue was with the padlocked store. Surely Ann could have just smashed the windows, then taken and hidden loads of useful supplies?

I won't let those caveats reduce the mark though. The novel tells an important story and grips the reader. I stayed up too late last night finishing it off, racing through the last forty pages. It's like a more innocent version of McCarthy's 'The Road', and with better punctuation.

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