I met Kevin at last year’s KidLitCon, where he gave a pitch about his upcoming book The Lost Code. It sounded so bizarre that I knew I had to read it, and Kevin was nice enough to send me an ARC.
The best description I can think of is that The Lost Code resembles a YA version of the Percy Jackson series, but darker, with Atlantis instead of the Greek myths. If I had to assign a genre, I’d aim for climate apocalypse/dystopia/YA fantasy/action-adventure summer camp tale, with a dash of the TV show Lost and a smidgeon of The Hunger Games.
The story starts off with a bang (or rather, a gurgle) when protagonist Owen Parker, a completely normal teenager, drowns at the bottom of a lake while attending a fancy summer camp. Obviously, he survives. Not so obviously, his body starts mutating. Add in a nasty bully, some way-too-curious doctors and hallucinations about an ancient civilization (Atlantis), and Owen’s life is about to get a lot less normal.
As if things weren’t dire enough, the book takes place at an unspecified future date, after catastrophic climate change has drowned cities and created enough chaos to kill millions. Humanity is split among the fortunate who live along the habitable zones (north and south poles) and the unlucky ones trying to survive in a desert wasteland. The really lucky ones live under giant biodomes that protect people from the sun’s toxic rays (because the ozone layer was pretty much destroyed). Owen’s summer camp, deliberately set up like an idyllic retreat from the past (ie, today), lies under dome EdenWest. So the story really takes place on three levels: summer camp, Atlantis, the outside world. Of those three, the Atlantis snippets were the hardest to get through. I’m not a fan of mythical-dream sequences—they provided necessary exposition, but I was glad when the story returned to Owen’s camp.
That camp—so normal on the surface—managed to ground the story while upping the creepiness. In between the normal camp stuff (group games, sailing, Owen’s crush on a counselor named Lilly), there’s a lot happening behind the scenes: like the rumor that the dome isn’t holding up quite as well as it should be, and the garbled stories of why the domes were built in the first place. I was most intrigued by the snippets of life outside the dome, the hints of rebellion and geopolitical battles. I hope books 2 and 3 will feature a lot more of that larger, complex world. In fact I know they will, because of what Emerson wrote in an interview with Reads for Keeps…which will be posted here tomorrow.