Carousel by Brendan Ritchie

cover image

Carousel is an engrossing dystopian coming of age story about four young people locked in a giant shopping centre. Nox is an Arts graduate, working in a stationary shop and uncertain about his future direction. Lizzy and Taylor are twins, two Indie musicians in Perth for performances and Rocky is a young skateboarder who works in Target. Trapped together in Carousel, an enormous shopping complex, they veg out watching TV, raiding the supermarket for food and waiting for the chaos to end. As days grow into weeks, tension grows. They are astounded when Rachel a cleaner appears, able to get in and out of the centre, while they still are locked in. How long will they be stuck in Carousel? What has happened to the world outside?

Although first published in 2015, this reprint with its striking cover is sure to have appeal to a YA audience today. Readers will relate to the sense of isolation that Nox and his companions feel, after themselves being locked in during the COVID epidemic. They will identify with the knowledge that eventually something must be done to occupy the time rather than watching TV and playing video games. Lizzy and Taylor return to their music, while Nox begins to write. Rocky catches Legionnaires Disease and it is a struggle for him to survive. Fresh food becomes an issue and they begin to plant vegetables hoping to grow them under the weak light that comes into the centre.

The author paints a memorable picture of the centre with familiar shops and brand names like Myer, David Jones, JB HiFi, Target, and Dymocks. The four ride bikes from one end of the centre to the other, each making their own bedroom and claiming a bathroom of their own, and they make desperate attempts to break out of the complex. The outside world of Perth will also be familiar as the four wonder what has happened to friends and family.

Told from the point of view of Nox, the reader gets to know the characters, their strengths and weaknesses and the measures that they take to survive. Nox gradually becomes more confident and the way Lizzy and Taylor make music is fascinating. The importance of Art and artists gradually becomes clear.

The suspense is kept up until the conclusion of the book, leaving many questions for the reader. I picked up the sequel, Beyond Carousel, to find out more. Teacher's notes are available. 

Themes: Dystopian fiction, Isolation, Music, Writing, Shopping centres, End of the world.

Pat Pledger