BOOKS
Outwalkers
416p. Scholastic. Jan. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338277500.
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Gr 5–8—Jacob Riley escapes from an Academy Home, a Dickensian orphanage in a future England ravaged by a purported virus. He plans to rescue his dog Jet and find his grandparents in Scotland. Immediately upon his escape, Jake is betrayed by former neighbors and chased by government "hubbers" who track him by means of a chip in the back of his neck. Then both Jake and Jet are rescued by a gang of "outwalkers" who excise the chip and invite Jake and his dog to join them on their way north. The gang steals and scavenges food, medicine, and clothing to survive. With skill, luck, courage, and occasional help from strangers, they brave government agents and unscrupulous adults to escape to Scotland and share information that could save England from its totalitarian nightmare. The dystopian buddy trope is well worn, yet Shaw draws such vivid circumstances and strong characters that this novel is impossible to set aside for long. The plot is detailed and exciting, and allegorical comparisons with the present day are compelling. It would be utterly inspiring but for one glaring sexist remark in which a character named Ollie "throws like a girl."
VERDICT A strong additional purchase for collections in need of futuristic, dystopian middle grade fare.

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