Boy 23 by Jim Carrington
Bloomsbury, 2015. ISBN 9781408822777
(Age: YA) Highly recommended. Themes: Science Fiction; Survival; Adventure. This is a story with a mystery that does not get fully revealed until right at the end, involving a naive boy with no name, who lives in isolation. His existence is supported by The Voice with whom he has no physical contact. From the beginning of the book we are part of Boy23's release from captivity. Blindfolded and abandoned with only a few basic items, he needs to survive and to escape from those who are desperate to recapture him. The Voice becomes his only means of support until he meets Carina in the religious Children's home where he has found temporary refuge. His unusual physicality leads to suggestions of a miracle.
The book is told with alternating voices - with the Boy, The Voice and Carina each telling the story from their perspective, with the past revealed through dream sequences or reflections of what has gone before. This is an alternate world, with influences of World War II Nazi occupation and a post-apocalyptic disaster combining to create a place in time and history that is unique, but non-specific. The language of the community is German, but Boy23 has been taught English by The Voice. Carina is bi-lingual and her own painful past gives her a reason to support the remarkably gifted Boy in his escape from powerful opposition.
This is wonderfully exciting book, a mystery adventure that will captivate a Young adult audience. The German language spoken by characters within the book is not translated and we get a feel for the confusion of the Young boy as he seeks to understand what is happening around him. (Students of German will enjoy using their language skills to add an extra layer of meaning. It is not necessary to translate, as the story becomes self-explanatory, and we make meaning from context.) There is some violence as part of the action of the book and a sexual assault is alluded to, but no detail given. Young readers will be captivated by the excitement of the escape attempt.
Highly recommended for YA.