With the ever-increasing popularity of The Hunger Games, the Divergent series and even The Giver making it to the ‘big screen’ as well as flying off bookstore shelves, dystopian young adult and new adult fiction comes in all shapes and sizes. Some is highly derivative, with clichéd heroes battling tyrannical authorities or oppressive governments, but many titles are truly impressive.
WARRIOR KIDS by Michael J. Bowler
Create Space Publishing, October 2015 ~ 4 Stars
Blurb: The future looks bleak unless eighteen-year-old Lance and his New Camelot Earth Warriors can save the planet from catastrophic climate change. Spurred by twelve year-olds Billy, Enya, Itzamna, and his ten-year-old brother, Chris, Lance creates a branch of Earth Warriors, a youth-led movement designed to save the earth from its greatest enemy – greed. His involvement leads to Earth Warrior crews springing up all across America. Millions of kids leap into action, paralyzing the country and alarming the rich and powerful.
Having adopted his father’s philosophy of doing what’s right, rather than what’s easy, Lance makes serious enemies when he calls out New Camelot donors who represent fossil fuel or other polluting industries, and then barely escapes a series of “accidents” designed to kill him. When he challenges the United States Congress to step up and act immediately on the climate crisis, the attacks on him escalate. With the majority of America’s kids on his side, Lance and his young Earth Warriors prepare for the United Nations Conference of the Parties in Paris, where they will call upon world leaders to stop talking about sustainability and start acting on it. But whoever wants him dead isn’t giving up. Will Lance and his crew live long enough to even get to Paris?
Review: This entertaining novel has an ensemble cast of young characters working together to make a difference and will undoubtedly engage most middle-grade audiences. While it has a few elements from the Arthurian legends, such as the mythical sword, Excalibur, the majority of the plot revolves around saving the world from pollution. Chosen by the sword, the new King Lance guides his mostly pre-teen warriors to step up and lead by example, reusing and recycling whenever possible. Using social media to connectwith a larger audience, other youngsters join this crusade, the latest in Lance’s battles. Occasionally, Lance refers to a previous engagement, probably detailed in an earlier book that gave kids more rights than those enjoyed in our society.
Since they have ‘civil rights’ and can choose where and how they live, it means they can answer Lance’s call to action when he confronts Congress and asks for controls to save America from the increasing perils caused by pollution. When sixty-million kids stop talking, it creates an impressive impact. This silent protest doesn’t stop them from emailing their representatives, so they’re not really quiet, are they?
As the group continues their strategy to stop pollution and the use of fossil fuels, the danger escalates for Lance. His enemies plot to destroy him, figuring this will also destroy his organization. However, the younger set is fairly adamant in carrying out his goals. For the most part, the characters are well defined and it is easy to tell them apart, although Enya is the only young girl who plays a strong part in the organization of New Camelot.
One of the major flaws in the book is the single-minded passion to save the earth. Yes, that is important and shouldn’t be downplayed. However, all the characters seem so united in this pursuit that they have few other interests. In addition, Lance spends all his time with this younger, middle-grade crew. Doesn’t he have any friends who are his age? If not, why not? We hear in some of his speeches that he does draw followers who are his age, but the reader doesn’t have the opportunity to see them in action. And we should!
In addition, could there be more description? One of the best scenes in the book happens when Lance takes his young warriors on a camping trip and they enjoy the opportunity to see huge trees and pristine streams. Despite the few shortcomings, this book provides important messages about climate change and making a difference in the world.
In an interview with The Book Breeze in October Indie Author Michael J. Bowler had this to say about WARRIOR KIDS.
It’s a standalone sequel to my Children of the Knight series. This one deals with the environmental crisis and climate change. I’m making the eBook free to all educators to share with their students. Teachers can purchase the paperbacks from me at my cost or from the publisher through their schools. The themes and messages in this book are important and very timely – the finale takes place at the 21st United Nations Conference of the Parties in Paris this past December. As a teacher, I seldom found supplemental books that would entertain my students and also educate them about important issues, so I decided to write one.