A teenager’s rebellion gets a claustrophobic jump-start in Antonia Honeywell’s debut. The girl in question is Lalage ‘Lalla’ Paul, a 16-year old who was born “at the end of the world.”
Famine, overpopulation and floods have pushed the human race to the brink of self-destruction, but Lalla’s father Michael has always had a plan. He’s hand-chosen a group of survivors to board a ship to escape London, but as they set sail, Lalla begins to question what her dad’s end game is.
Everyone is grateful to have been given the chance to escape, and is overjoyed at the never-ending food, water and creature comforts Michael has provided, but no one apart from Lalla seems to be questioning where it is they’re going. Is Lalla simply going through her rebellious phase at a delayed stage after years of being hidden from the horrors of the world? Or is Michael really hiding something?
It is convincingly written, and horribly realistic; fracking has poisoned the soil, only registered citizens have rights, and a series of government acts have done nothing to help. While Michael revels in knowing best and having known best all along, Lalla’s mother, Anna, resists the urge to flee, desperate to help and to provoke Lalla’s independent thought.
The author skilfully interweaves Lalla’s jolt into adulthood with the unsettling ease of the rest of the passengers’ slide into comfort and complacency. Honeywell makes no secret of her environmental concerns, but rather than coming across as preachy, it gives this coming-of-age tale a real punch.