I found this while perusing a box of books another teacher at my school didn’t need. Empty by Suzanne Weyn.
A dystopic look at what happens to one American town when all the fossil fuels run out…
It’s the near future – the very near future – and the fossil fuels are running out. No gas. No oil. Which means no driving. No heat. Supermarkets are empty. Malls have shut down. Life has just become more local than we ever knew it could be.
Nobody expected the end to come this fast. And in the small town of Spring Valley, decisions that once seemed easy are quickly becoming matters of life and death. There is hope – there has to be hope – just there are also sacrifices that need to be made, and a whole society that needs to be rethought.
The blurb on the back of the book held so much promise. Sadly, the book itself fell flat. The book is third person omniscient and suffers from having too many main characters without having a natural arc for them. The book is just too short to handle tackling the topic of the world running out of oil and the multiple main character’s personal problems. In the end it felt like we only got bits of a fuller story. Instead of more fleshing out, for instance, how Gwen feels about her mother abandoning her family or her house burning down, we are treated to Gwen’s crush on another one of the main chacaters. Which led to one of my biggest pet peeves, love triangles. They can work if done well. This was not an example of that.
It’s funny, because thinking back on the book there were lots of parts that should have been really interesting. For instance, an all out brawl between high schoolers over oil that leads to smashed windshields. Except we get this moment from the point of view of the cheerleader character who refused to wear her glasses (because she doesn’t like how they make her look) and who thus can’t see what’s going on. Furthermore, the focus is on how (was it her boyfriend or her ex-bofriend? I couldn’t keep them straight) rescues her from the situation.
We also didn’t get a really good sense of how the characters actually felt about what was happening around them. Possible starvation? Might actually die? These characters are too busy with their love triangle to really explore that.
The ending also felt a little too deux es machina for my tastes. SPOILERS We found a house that runs entirely on self sustaining energy and grows its own food and now we’re gonna turn our town into a eco friendly valley which is great but what is the rest of the world supposed to do.
The idea of looking at a world that’s run out of oil was really great, but not well handled in this book. For a better world is ending dystopian, try Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It.
Stay magical readers!