“ The Young World ”, by Chris Weitz


Chris Weitz’s “The Young World” tells the story of a Manhattan dominated by tribes of boastful, self-confident teenagers, some buzzing with attention deficit medication, moving through town while adults squeak. teeth in the shadows, fearing for their lives. Oh, no, that was my teenage daughter’s diary of her life in eighth grade last year. (Sorry for the joke, honey; I would never read your diary, really.) But in Weitz’s novel, these things happen – except the adults are all dead. Indeed, Weitz takes this familiar and real theme of early self-reliance and brings it to its logical end: what if Manhattan was not only dominated by teenagers but in fact ruled by them in a Hobbesian world of violence and savagery? ?

The premise of “The Young World” is that disease, a mysterious disease that kills adults and children but spares adolescents, has struck the world. The surviving teenagers of New York, aware that they too will die when they reach adulthood, are divided into heavily armed tribes, growing vegetables in Washington Square and searching for medicine in abandoned Duane Reades.

There are times at the beginning of the book when you may feel an illness yourself, this one caused by the contagion of pure predictability. With the setup established in the first 20 pages and the narrative cleverly split between tough girl Donna and nerd genius Jefferson, you start to think that you could write the rest of the book – for that matter, cast the movie and create the video. game – by yourself. Weitz is a successful screenwriter (“The Golden Compass”, “About a Boy”), and if you didn’t know that when you first started reading, it wouldn’t take long to guess. If there is a moment of conventional construction to resist, it leaves it without resistance: we are given on page 54 a list of our dramatis personae: “Brainbox (evil genius); Donna (slightly unbalanced girl-power chick); Peter (gay Christian adrenaline junkie). Shortly after, we meet the little Asian girl known as SeeThrough, who turns out to be, of course, a martial arts master.

But even a skeptic would reluctantly admit that Weitz is a successful screenwriter because he’s a good storyteller – sometimes formidable. Dystopian fantasies depend on the details, and here they are often unforgettablely right. Grasping the idea that the survivors would try to recreate some form of social media, Weitz imagines one painting a Facebook page on the wall, while for others, the lost technology persists in the form of physical tics: “These days , phones are like – what did they call them? – ghost members, ”said Donna. “You’ll talk to someone and they’ll look down and start rubbing their fingers. They want to text someone. The details are so relevant that they almost make up for Weitz’s shameless exploitation of the mainstays of action films: characters we thought dead emerge from nowhere to wow the villains; the guns operate with an ease – never scrambling or running out of ammo – which seems more likely in a Times Square multiplex than in a true urban apocalypse.

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