We Are Savages by Jessie Atkin
(Summary taken from amazon.com) "We Are Savages is the story of 12 year old Tris and what she finds when she runs from the responsibility of her household and descends through a rain grate into the child run world of Nowhere. "You go to bed angry or sad enough you can wake up just about anywhere," the Savages tell her. Nowhere is a brick utopia hidden in the sewers; made up of sweets, sports, hammocks, and fireflies. But even this haven, free of parents and protocol, is not everything it seems. Haunted by dark specters known only as Phocydes, feared for their reputation of consuming children whole, Tris works both to hunt and to hide from these hooded shadows. But something about them is familiar; something about them fires her curiosity more than her fear. And Tris slowly begins to realize that, no matter where you go, fear and responsibility are not things you can escape. The only thing to do is face them."
This book is definitely unique, which is good. A few of the characters are developed really well. Tris is the main character (Every time I read her name I pictured "Divergent.") and you get a very good feel for who she is and her motivations, desires, and wants. She has a dog named Mars, and he seems like a great, loyal dog. A few of the characters in "Nowhere" are also developed well. Aya, Logan, and Declan all had a hint of mystery to them, but were developed enough that I came to like them and feel like I knew enough about them to care about them. Unfortunately, that is all I really liked about this book. I didn't like the premise at all. Maybe it's because I'm the mother of a 12 year-old, but I didn't get it or enjoy it. Tris is 12 years-old, and is a tomboy. Her parents think she should be more girly and more grown-up. After a fight with her parents, where they threaten to get rid of her dog, she runs away. Here comes my mother perspective: that is just lame. Every 12 year-old has disagreements with her parents. Every 12 year-old makes mistakes and sometimes isn't as grown-up as she should be. Every parent tends to fixate on weird things sometimes and may have unrealistic expectations. Very few parent/child relationships are perfect. I know I'm not perfect and I know my really good 12 year-old kid isn't perfect either. Nothing happened in the story that would warrant running away. She wasn't being abused physically or emotionally. I don't think that it's ok to teach kids to run away instead of learning how to talk about and deal with problems. Running away doesn't solve anything. Does it in this book? Not really. So she runs away and ends up falling through a grate, into the sewer system (gross!!), and into a place called "Nowhere." In Nowhere, there are no parents. It is inhabited by kids who have all either run away or just woken up here because life at home was hard. They can do whatever they want whenever they want. There aren't any rules, just lots of games. They call themselves "Savages." I don't like that name either. It sounds like they are vicious cannibals or something. I'm still not sure what they were eating down there. Anyway, there are these scary things called Phocydes that were kind of like ghosts, I guess. They would sometimes come and take kids. Aya would go kill them, but wasn't able to get all of them. Tris kind of takes charge at this point and sort of becomes a hero. I don't know. I just didn't get the point of all of it. Tris never really learned anything or grew as a character. The kids are just free to do whatever, there's no need to grow up or learn how to handle hard situations at home. Also, there is a big fight where they get together and fight the phocydes. So, if they can handle that situation, and if they can handle losing friends in Nowhere, why can't they handle their home situations? What I really didn't like was the notion that it's ok to run away from your problems. It's ok to not learn how to work through hard times. I didn't like the kids' attitudes toward authority, especially their parents. Like I said, it's probably that I'm a mom, but I just didn't like it or get it.
There isn't any language, "intimacy," or excessive violence.
Rating: PG+ (No language or "intimacy." There is some violence, and a 12 year-old who runs away after an argument with her parents.)
Recommendation: 14 and up. I don't think it's a good middle-grader book.
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.