Seventeen by Suzanne Lowe – Review
Imagine a world where everything you grew up with is gone. No adults, no internet, no rules. The world is facing the deadliest virus ever known.
When the KV17 virus kills everyone above the age of seventeen, life becomes a battle of survival for the children left behind. Seeking to escape the escalating violence in the city, two sisters, Lexi and Hadley flee to the Australian outback. Finding sanctuary in the small town of Jasper’s Bay, they soon realise it is far from safe, as a gang of lawless teenagers terrorise the town.
Caught in a bitter feud leading to betrayal, deceit and murder, the girls must quickly uncover who their enemies are, and who they can trust.
In a world drastically changed from everything they once knew; can the sisters and children of Jasper’s Bay learn to adapt? Can they maintain control of their town, and protect it from those who would destroy it?
As a reader, I love a good mass extinction event. The wiping out of society as we know it, the unpredictable responses of humanity to calamity and nature. As the old saying goes, we are only three square meals away from chaos. I approached Seventeen with interest, wondering where it would take us on its post-apocalyptic journey.
Well, not very far, to be honest. From one town to another with limited drama and even less emotional engagement. From the beginning, I was plagued with a sense of déjà vu, caused by having watched a TV show called The Tribe during the 1990s. In which a mass viral outbreak kills off all the adults, leaving the kids to reform society with their own rules. So far, so similar.
The first third of the book focuses solely on Lexi and Hadley, and their response to the outbreak around them, within the limited frame of their limited teenage responses. Teenagers are gloriously complex, complicated, volatile beings – and these girls are faced with such horrific circumstances that you would expect a greater range of responses than we get. This was frustrating as a reader – there was no curiosity, no engagement with what was going on outside of their own narrow walls (or game consoles).
The second part of the novel goes a little Lord of the Flies. Driven out of their home by a lack of electricity and food sources, the girls pitch up in Deliverance – sorry, Jasper’s Bay, home of the magically working solar energy plant and electricity. This is more interesting, as other teenagers join the story and we see the devastating effects of the virus through a wider context.
I have more sympathy for the older characters such as Elisha, Braydon and Lily later in the novel when we see how the virus’ mutation begins to affect them. This is a really interesting plot twist with serious consequences for all involved. There is some exploration of this and it informs decisions made by key characters later in the story, leaving scope for imagining a truly terrifying future for humanity, and those left behind after KV17 hits.
With regards to themes, there are sudden flares of gratuitous violence that can feel out of place with the general tone of the narrative, which feels pitched for the younger end of the YA spectrum. I’m not doubting this would happen in this type of world, but I do have an issue with the ‘good guys’ being so blond, blue-eyed and pretty – while the ‘bad guys’ are uniformly thuggish, ‘muddy haired’, and have bad breath. It’s lazy characterisation and more nuance would have been welcome.
In summary, there are some interesting themes in this novel but for me it would have benefited from more rounded characters and a shorter introduction for Hadley and Lexi, moving them into Jasper’s Bay faster to move the narrative along and to highlight the breakdown of society within this narrow community in a more engaging way.
I will say that although I read and enjoy a lot of YA dystopian fiction, this book was not for me – which is fine as I am not the target audience and I may be asking too much of it with a cynical adult head. Reviews I have read from the target demographic have been pretty positive, so if the premise sounds like your kind of thing then dive right in.
About The Author
Suzanne was born in Perth Western Australia and as a young adult grew up in the small country town of Tom Price situated in the outback of Western Australia. Her current home is in Perth with her husband, two daughters and cat Abby.
Suzanne has a Bachelor of Science Degree, majoring in Sports Science. Her interests include watching movies, particularly sci-fi, travelling, photography and reading. She also enjoys going to the occasional comic book convention!
Like the young women in her stories, Suzanne has had the opportunity to experience many exciting adventures in her life so far including being part of the Australian Army Reserves, climbing to Mt Everest base camp, descending into one of the pyramids at Giza in Egypt, flying in a hot air balloon over the Valley of the Kings, parachuting from a plane at 12000 feet in York and sitting on the edge of an active volcano on Tanna island in Vanuatu.
Suzanne is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Australian Society of Authors.
Her published works include;
Seventeen, Book One in the Seventeen Series. A YA dystopian adventure story set in Australia. Winner of the New Apple E-book awards in YA horror and Sci-Fi
Rage, Book Two in the Seventeen Series. A YA dystopian adventure story set in Australia. Available August 2019
The Pirate Princess and the Golden Locket, a pirate adventure story for middle-grade children
Suzanne’s author website is www.Suzanneloweauthor.com
Twitter is www.twitter.com/@Suzanne_Lowe_
Instagram is www.instagram.com/suzannelowe.author/
Facebook is www.facebook.com/suzanneloweauthor/
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Seventeen-Suzanne-Lowe-ebook/dp/B07QL9VRRX/
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Seventeen-Suzanne-Lowe-ebook/dp/B07QL9VRRX/