Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Memory Boy by Will Weaver

The Scream, an expressionist painting by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, rivets our attention to a trembling human form in extreme distress. As you gaze over it with your eyes, you may wonder what makes the alien-like form howl with fright. Surprisingly however, another element in the painting occasionally receives more attention. Those that view the painting today might want focus their attention on the reddish swirls in the background.

Scientists speculate that the unusually vivid background in The Scream may reveal a connection to one of the most powerful volcanic eruptions in recorded history-the eruption of Krakatoa.

In the late 1800's, ash from Krakatoa swirled around the globe possibly at the same time Edvard Munch finished The Scream. This would explain the vivid red swirls. Ash particles from the destructive Krakatoa eruption could have ironically resulted in some of the most magnificent sunsets ever witnessed on earth.

Considering other more recent cataclysmic events in the form of tsunamis, earthquakes, mega oil spills, not to mention a potential cataclysm in the form of a caldera of molten lava 1500 square miles in size lurking just 5 miles below Yellowstone Park, we may just consider the setting in the story, Memory Boy, by Will Weaver, more than plausible.

The story takes place in Minnesota, but the event that triggers all the action begins as a massive volcanic eruption in the Cascade Mountain Range on the West Coast. The volcanic event is more than 50 times the scale of the 1980 Mt. St. Helen’s eruption. As ash spews over most of the country, a teenager named Miles Newell eventually catches on that his carefree life will soon be over. Under a blanket of volcanic ash, the bread basket of the world slowly dies. The national crisis gets so severe, that instead of pulling together, people start living like it is survival of the strongest. Even in Miles neighborhood mild mannered people begin to act towards each other like a bad remake of the novel, The Lord of the Flies. With violence on the rise, and Mile’s family’s mansion a likely target for looters, the Newell family decides to make a run for it to the Brainerd Lakes Area. A safe, quiet, tranquil cabin awaits them. There’s only one problem-fuel has been rationed and there is no way for the family to get there by any gas-powered vehicle.

Will Miles figure out a way to help his family escape? Will the Newell family reach their beloved lake cabin before the chaos spilling into the suburbs of Minneapolis makes their way impassible? And, if they can reach their destination, how will the Newell family survive without fuel, electricity and any basic knowledge on how to live off the land? If you like a hard edged dystopian page turner, I would recommend Memory Boy, by Will Weaver.

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