With a beautiful jacket, & the promise of a unique, spellbinding story, The Last Wild is one of the most interesting new books for 9-12’s this year, & an intelligent, heartfelt plot for animal lovers of any age.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, where a disease known as the Red-Eye has wiped out almost all of the wildlife in the world, barring the varmints (pigeons, cockroaches & other such scavenging beasties), Human kind live in sealed cities, surviving of mass manufactured food substitute to take over the meat & dairy that’s now lacking from their diets. The Last Wild focuses on twelve year old Kester Jaynes, the mute son of a very well renowned scientist who spends his life in a sealed centre for children to keep them safe from the Red-Eye. Kester’s life is dull, miserable & monotonous, trapped inside his own head, unable to communicate with other children or adults, until one day he hears a voice inside his head that isn’t his own. He’s convinced he’s finally losing his mind, when he realises the voice belongs to a cockroach, who tells him that he is needed to save the animal kingdom & cure the Red-Eye. Soon, with the aid of a swarm of pigeons & cockroaches, Kester is freed from his prison & on the run in the open countryside, where the animals lead him to the Last Wild, the only remaining animals in the whole world not killed by the Red-Eye. Their leader, a majestic stag, asks Kester to take them to his father, who they believe is the key to curing the fatal disease. What follows is an epic journey in which Kester makes new discoveries about himself, & the world which has been hidden from him.
The Last Wild was a book that came out of nowhere & totally engrossed me. Like a modern day Animals of Farthing Wood in a totalitarian state, it’s a surprising & engaging novel with a lot of strength & moral values.
Kester is an incredibly interesting character, & a brave move writing from the perspective of someone stuck inside their own head. His inability to express out loud (except to animals) means that we get a very personal & unique insight into his personality. It also successfully lets the reader tap into his frustration at a world that writes him off simply because he can’t talk. The animals are the really interesting characters in the book though, both funny & emotionally well constructed, their plight is immediately engaging because of how human their personalities are. The animals also complement each other really well, the Stag is wise & majestic, the pigeons are funny & quirky, and the wolf & cockroach are bold, brave & emotionally varied. All this creates a fantastic ensemble of characters who bounce off each other easily & naturally. Once Polly is introduced as the other main human character, the story takes a dynamic shift, using her voice to give the narrative more pace & sense of urgency. Also, as one of the few humans living in the wild herself, she gives us a glimpse into the truth of the world beyond the lies of the Governing Industries. Whilst she can grate to begin with, she fast becomes the important voice to the world that the first part of the novel lacks. Her & Kester’s friendship soon blossoms & she becomes his link to remaining in touch with humanity.
The Last Wild, obviously, has strong environmental themes, but they’re put across with a subtle & endearing way, rather than reading like a rant. It really brings the individuality of animals to the fore of the story & by making the reader care about them, it makes the reader care about their plight. The story also paints a harrowing world where animals have been wiped out, which strikes a chord with extinctions & atrocities against the animal world.
The book is by no means preachy though, & it contains plenty of epic mystery & fast-paced action to temper the morals & keep the reader turning the pages. The subtle sense of conspiracy is really intriguing, & has really made me curious to check out the next book to find out exactly what caused the Red-Eye & why there are mysterious agents rounding up surviving animals throughout the countryside. Both thrilling & captivating, The Last Wild is one of the biggest surprise hits of my year, & I’ll be recommending it to ALL.
Thanks for Reading!
P.S. Follow-up The Dark Wild is due next year!