Since the End came, leaving the United States a confused and desolate wasteland, what is left of society has been trying to pick up the pieces and put itself back together. Nick Miller is willing to do whatever it takes and is flying a top-secret mission over the devastation when he is forced to make a crash landing. Luckily, he is rescued by the brooding, enigmatic Vance Amherst and his dubious crew of teenage boys, who are eking out an existence in the remains of their boarding school. But Nick quickly realizes that something is very wrong at Stanton Academy: the school has been turned into a fortress bristling with giant spikes; the boys, armed to the teeth with wooden stakes, exude a desperate, fearful discipline; the teaching staff is conspicuously absent. And night is falling…
Adrianne Ambrose gave me a copy of The Urchin which thrilled me to no end because she is one of my favorite up and coming authors! I adore that she creates characters who are smart and relatable, regardless of their age, sex, or circumstance.
The Urchin is a departure from her previous books—the darkness is palpable. I love the spare, dystopian world that the residents of The Urchin inhabit.
Within the first few sentences of The Urchin, the reader learns that there has been cataclysmic change—the world as we know it no longer exists. Nick, a pilot, is on his way to New Washington when he is forced to make an emergency landing in a barren, hostile wasteland that appears to be empty of human existence.
The tell-tale sound of squeaky bicycles alerts Nick that he is not alone. The rag-tag bunch of boys who find him take him back to The Urchin. The Urchin is one of the last standing buildings in the area. It is a school turned fortress, by necessity the last line of defense between the boys who survived The End and the enemies who lurk in darkness.
Once Nick is inside The Urchin we meet Vance, the defacto leader of the surviving boys of the Stanton Military Academy. Vance is the heart of the novel. He is The Urchin—it is his guidance and leadership that keeps the boys alive. It is his story that tugs at your heart. It is his strategy and decisions that keep you surprised.
If Vance is the heart of the story, Johnny is its soul. Johnny is charismatic, thoughtful, funny, and is able to lift everyone's spirits. Vance and Johnny are best friends. Together, they lead the survivors of The End. Unfortunately, Johnny was attacked on a scouting mission and became a vampire. While "vamping out" should have marked the end of their friendship, Vance and Johnny not only remain friends but continue to work together to keep the kids alive.
Vance and Johnny are compelling characters in the present. They gain depth and humanity in the generous flashbacks that occur throughout the story. Honestly, it is through the flashbacks that you fall a little in love with them and become invested in their continued survival.
It is the strength of their friendship that gives the story its most significant twist.
I loved this book! I read it in a single sitting—I was completely engaged from the first page to the last. This is definitely a book that I will come back to and read again.
The Urchin is one of them. With the story's shocking—yet somewhat-expected-but-I-quickly-brushed-aside-the-thought—ending, I had to sit and stew, to let my spinning mind calm before I could write a review. And my mind is still reeling.
The story is basic in terms of the Post-Apocalyptic genre: The country, maybe even the world, is riddled with known and unknown pandemics; people are stranded and suffering, just trying to get by; villains and protagonists—both, irreproachable because you can understand their reasoning considering the circumstances; coups and alliances, etc.
But Adrianne Ambrose's storytelling is the clincher. She captured the voices of multiple teenage boys, all of whom are different. I could feel each from the pages, as well as the relationships.
Vance, the incredibly smart, firm yet selfless, seventeen-year-old leader of a rag-tag team of young boys, is the rock of The Urchin—the book and the place. I think of him as the rational dreamer—doing what he must, when he must, while being moral. He drives not only the heart of these stranded boys but the story, along with his best friend, Johnny. Their present interaction mixing with pre-End flashbacks of their relationship, as well as Vance's with his brother, set a "Before" and "After" theme, in which memory and the spirit of someone becomes the glue and motivator for the characters and the readers.
I eventually found myself even liking Nick, the realistic outsider who fell from the sky and turned The Urchin upside down. Because of him, I wasn't sure how I would feel about this book when I first started it, but he grew as a person—and on me—while staying in character.
And that's the funny thing. As I read, I wasn't expecting to be over the moon about this book. I don't know when or how, but my love for it snuck up on me like a vampire—I mean, a thief—in the night. It's not action-packed, and there are some editing errors, but I was riveted. I'd recommend it to anyone, really. It's going on my "would-read-again" shelf.
Thank you to darcysmom for recommending it to me. One day, she and I might just have to do a Read-Along on Twitter.
Adrianne Ambrose is giving away free Kindle copies of The Urchin to the first 20 requests. All you have to do is email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with your email address and the subject line as "I'd LUV me an Urchin."
Please remember to send the author some LUV by leaving a review. Happy reading, everyone!
Amazon.com Rating: 5 out of 5 stars