Avoiding cliché, Sakina Ali
Devolve: The Wolf
Devolve: The Wolf is the first instalment in the Devolve series which was written by the New Zealand author, Mike Hooper and was published by Hooper Books. The book is a dystopian story that is told from the perspective of an orphaned teenage boy called Foren – or 4N according to the naming system in the book – and begins underground, where people were forced to go because of war, and later moves on to the surface where Foren and his friends are sent to explore.
The book begins in a classroom where Foren and his peers are discussing what the surface means to them and the rest of their people, and gives a brief but straight-to-the-point explanation of their history. The story then moves on into Foren’s less- than- great home conditions, and introduces characters that are essential to the storyline. Hooper has written the book in a very descriptive way which allows the reader to imagine the circumstances and portrays his main characters in a way that allows one to see exactly what they are thinking.
The book is targeted towards young adult readers. While the story does not include the clichéd teenage romance, it has many scenes that give the reader a thrill of excitement. For example, many scenes that are between the characters Geo, Foren and his friends are a bit violent and make the reader wonder about the outcome, especially in the books to come. Most of these thrilling and exciting scenes that create diverse opinions are usually influenced by a tragic backstory and seem to be justified in a sense. The writer has also included characters who create and manage a hierarchy that lords over the main population, like King Brown, the son of the man who “saved” the people of the burrows, as well as the main antagonist, whose true colours are hinted at throughout the book. King Brown is written in a way that allows some readers to make connections to real people, because of his sarcastic and belittling demeanour as opposed to the typical cold-hearted, psychotic villain.
The character who brings about an exciting twist is Vici, a girl who lives in the same area as Foren and is in his class. She is brought into the story when her mother asks Foren for help in regards to a test that comes up in the class that decides the students’ future. Vici is the sibling to two older girls who went missing while performing their duties on the surface and, because of this, her mother feels she needs protection from whatever is on the surface. Her inclusion in the book helps in developing Foren as a character, as well as giving the reader a feeling of loss.
Hooper uses the theme of poverty subtly, making sure that the readers see what life is really like for orphans and people without support, without dramatics: “Look at you, mate. Eating like a king down here!” This quote refers to Foren, who is eating what readers would consider an everyday snack, but is thought of as an extravagant meal down in the burrows. This gives readers an insight into how harsh the conditions are for the locals.
Hooper’s book can be compared to The 100, a book series that was written by Kate Morgan with a number of similarities. For example, teenagers are sent to the earth to test the conditions of what is thought to be a toxic and unliveable environment. A difference between them is the origin: The 100 is about teenagers that are sent down from space, as opposed coming from underground. The 100 was developed into a television series that created and developed new characters who resemble characters from Devolve: The Wolf, such as Charles Pike, who can be compared to King Brown.
As a reader, I feel the book was very well written in the sense that it had a great plot and well written characters who have clear character development. The storyline was not tiresome and had exciting twists and turns with a hint of violence that left me wanting more. But, unfortunately, I felt that the end was rushed. The entire storyline that led up to the end was spaced out and well thought out until the last 20 or so pages, when the antagonist is dealt with in a quick fashion and new ideas are introduced hurriedly. However, this can also be taken as a cliffhanger that leaves a reader ready for the next book. Characters like Geo added spice to the book as well as backstory that left me sympathising with him, which I found was essential in keeping a reader’s attention, especially in scenes where there is little action.
Sakina Ali is aged 14, from Auckland.