Review: The Never Weres
Teenagers Mia, Xian, and Jesse are the last generation of humans. The Barren Virus has ended childbirth, cloning has not been successful, and robots are still not accepted as an alternative to human life. While wandering through the bowels of the city, Xian stumbles across a clue to a teenage girl who went missing 60 years before, but can that discovery lead to the salvation of the human race?
The Never Weres
Ages: 10-14; Grades 5-8
Annick Press, February 2011, ISBN 978-1-55451-284-3
256 pages, $12.95
I’ve always enjoyed end-of-the-world science fiction, so I was eager to pick this one up. Unfortunately, while Smyth has a strong idea, her science fiction elements fall short. If children are in such short supply, then why are the teens allowed to wander the streets freely and why is Xian allowed to live alone after her parents’ death? Jesse’s mother’s more benign form of neglect is believable, as is Mia’s family’s insistence on survival training rather than art school, but both families’ issues are resolved too easily in the end. The robots-versus-clones debate is timely, though again Smyth wraps it up too easily for it to be truly thought provoking. Tween readers will probably like the mystery and the action, especially since the teens mostly act on their own in the beginning, but a “shadowy government employee” character is too obvious to be effectively menacing.
Smyth’s art has an eye-appealing magical-realism quality to it which encourages readers to linger over the pages picking out the many details. But she does not seem to have as strong a grasp of how to best use the graphic novel medium. There are several times when text bubbles are awkwardly placed, so it is confusing which one comes first. Most annoying is the narrator, a robot who states the obvious too often, telling us what is happening or what a character is feeling when Smyth should instead be showing us. And, though readers might find it fun that Mia, Xian, and Jesse read books with familiar titles (Scott Pilgrim, Rumble Fish) and use websites like Blogspot, it undercuts the futuristic setting.
Though tween science fiction graphic novels are hard to find, Smyth’s pretty, but shaky offering isn’t enough to fill that gap. There is some mild violence and a skeleton, but no content that makes this inappropriate for a middle school collection and tween readers might well find themselves enjoying this light sci-fi story, but it isn’t as good as it could have been.
This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Annick Press.
About Snow Wildsmith
Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.
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