Perfect for fans of Hatchet and the I Survived series, this harrowing middle grade debut novel-in-verse from a Pushcart Prize–nominated poet tells the story of a young girl who wakes up one day to find herself utterly alone in her small Colorado town.
When twelve-year-old Maddie hatches a scheme for a secret sleepover with her two best friends, she ends up waking up to a nightmare. She’s alone—left behind in a town that has been mysteriously evacuated and abandoned.
With no one to rely on, no power, and no working phone lines or internet access, Maddie slowly learns to survive on her own. Her only companions are a Rottweiler named George and all the books she can read. After a rough start, Maddie learns to trust her own ingenuity and invents clever ways to survive in a place that has been deserted and forgotten.
As months pass, she escapes natural disasters, looters, and wild animals. But Maddie’s most formidable enemy is the crushing loneliness she faces every day. Can Maddie’s stubborn will to survive carry her through the most frightening experience of her life?---from the publisher
416 pages 978-1534467569 Ages 10 and up
Keywords: survival, girls and women, loneliness, self reliance, dog, books, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old, 13 year old, novels in verse, dystopian
“Desolation (n.) deprivation of companionship; emptine; sorrow; woe”
“Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it seems like years since its been here”
-- George Harrison (1969)
Reach for remote.
Grave-faced news anchor talks to camera.
‘...imminent threat resulting in emergency
evacuations...state of emergency...top
priority to secure the homeland...infrastructure
protection...western United States...information
security...crisis and emergency planning…’
TV shows farmland.
Soldiers erecting rows and rows of tents.
Highways and traffic jams for miles.”
I don’t know whether a survival story can be characterized as fun. “Fun survival story” sounds a bit oxymoronic. Maybe it makes a difference that this is fiction, because ALONE is breathtakingly exciting, and powerful. Impossible to put down.
In the suburbs outside Denver, Colorado, twelve-year-old Maddie Harrison takes advantage of her divorced parents' trust. It seems like harmless fun. She texts her mom that she is going to be at her dad’s house, working on a big history project. She texts her dad that she is going to be at her mom’s house, babysitting her younger siblings. She and a couple of girlfriends plan a secret sleepover at her grandparents’ empty summer apartment. She organizes the evening, but then her friends are unable to make it, so she spends the night there alone.
In the middle of the night, there is a commotion outside, and someone bangs on the door, but she stays quiet, so as not to get in trouble. In the light of morning, she discovers that everyone in town has been hastily evacuated. There are voicemails from both parents assuming Maddie is on one of the emergency transports with the other parent. But she is not. And she cannot reach them. A visit to where everyone boarded the transports brings the realization that all cell phones were confiscated and left behind. As were pets and most belongings.
She heads to her mom’s house. Soon, the power goes out. Then the water system ceases to work. Foraging at neighbors’ houses, Maddie encounters a friendly dog she knows, a rottweiler named George. So it becomes Maddie and George surviving alone, together.
I go house to house
searching for food, water, other supplies.
Sometimes doors are unlocked. I walk right in.
Other times, I find an open window or a dog door
big enough to crawl through.
Lots of homes have doors from their backyards
into garages, and then unlocked doors from
garages into houses.
Must brace for the worst.
Many dogs and cats have starved to death
and are decomposing inside.
I occasionally surprise a pet who’s managed
to survive by drinking toilet water.
But as guilty as I feel, I can’t help them.
It’s hard enough to keep George and me fed.
I leave the doors open and try to shoo them through
so they can test their luck at survival outside.
Mostly, though, rancid fish tanks, bird and rodent cages
carcasses of pets make me gag and want to run.
I get in and out as quickly as possible.
Limit my searches to kitchens and pantries.
Anything I haul home has to fit one of
two categories or it isn’t worth my time.
food and drink (cans of soup, vegetables, fruit, chili, boxes of
crackers, bottles of water, cranberry juice, ginger ale)
supplies for survival (soap, propane, matches, candles,
I always bring a pad and pencil with me.
I always leave a thank-you note with my name and address.
At one house, I find a shoebox full of batteries
along with extra flashlights.
At another, I find a first aid kit with bandages and those ice packs that freeze when squeezed hard enough.
At still another, I find a hand-cranked emergency radio.”
At least it’s summer. But it won’t be for long. Niceties like the thank-you notes will soon go by the wayside, when Maddie comes to realize that she’s in this for the long haul and that arctic-like Colorado wintery weather is just around the corner. It’s going to take big thinking and hard work for her to have any chance of making it alone..
Can Maddie survive the elements? Threats to her health and wellbeing? Can she survive the indefinite loss of those she loves and everyone else, too? Of possibly never getting to go on dates and fall in love? What’s it like to really feel alone?
ALONE is a coming of age survival tale that starts out great and then becomes amazing. It is quite a thought-provoking and fun read.
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA
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