Courageous twins are called upon to heal a sick, divided world in The Whisper [Review]

John Millen |

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The Whisper

By Emma Clayton

ISBN 978 1 905294 89 3

Published by Chicken House

Here we are again in a dystopian future where adults have messed things up and teenagers are struggling to create a world worth living in. Whatever would YA writers do without their crystal balls that show a bleak future for us all?

Emma Clayton is an imaginative writer and in her twin tomes The Roar and follow-up The Whisper she has had the sense to bring her version of the future into a tight focus that doesn’t spread itself too thinly.

Over 40 years ago, an animal plague drove human survivors to build a massive concrete wall across the northern hemisphere to protect themselves. Now, this divided world is in conflict. What is happening south of the wall, and is it as dangerous as those in the north are led to believe?

A war fuelled by northern leader Mal Gorman is raging and an army of brainwashed, microchipped child soldiers is poised to invade the south from behind the wall. The opening pages will grab even readers who are not thrilled by dystopian sci-fi. Master villain Gorman is poised to launch his evil plan to take over the world. But he needs the assistance of Mika and Ellie, twins with telepathic powers.

Gorman, wired to life-support equipment, will die if he doesn’t get his hands on Everlife-9, a miracle drug developed south of the wall that is rumoured to undo the ravages of time. Mika and Ellie are sent on a mission to steal Everlife-9 and bring it to him. All this at first seems like an excuse to get the the two main characters out into new action, but Gorman’s plan soon takes centre stage in Clayton’s nail-biting plot.

Whisper works on two levels. There are cliffhangers that keep readers turning the page as in a classy thriller, and there is the big scenario of a ruined world trying to right itself. The apocalyptic setting is engrossing and Mika and Ellie are sympathetic characters supported by an interesting gang of hangers-on.

But a masterstroke is the focus on the hideous, hissable Gorman. He is straight out of a Bond movie, evil at its best. Clayton’s super-villain helps keep both the setting and the plot from spinning out of control.

It helps to have read Roar before Whisper, but there is enough subtle recapping to get new readers into the swing of the story.

Perhaps the future won’t be as bleak as novelists paint it. But as long as there are courageous kids like Mika and Ellie to defeat villains like Gorman and get us back on track, our world will be saved. As Ellie climbs into her pod fighter and flies off into the sunset, there will be smiles of satisfaction on many a reader’s face.