CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 37. . . .May 23, 2014
Rowan Morgan, 15, is hiking in the woods when a massive earthquake tears at the west coast from Oregon to Alaska. Her father is taken to the hospital, and Rowan is forced to take refuge, along with her brother Michael and their neighbour Jake, in their earthquake-proof compound, surrounded by electrified fences and stocked with water, food, and a wealth of other supplies. But desperation is a dangerous thing, and soon the hordes, including a dangerous local gang, are knocking at the gates. When Rowan decides to abandon their fortress in search of her father, she ends up finding answers she never expected, and never wanted to find, either.
The novel opens with a massive earthquake rocking the west coast, collapsing buildings and leaving Rowan and Michael treating Jake for shock. They soon run into Greg, a paramedic who seems to have come out of nowhere, but the group of teens avoids asking questions until they are back to safety. Author Bolitho underscores the first portion of the book with a sense of urgency, but in the second portion of the novel, she turns to a greater exploration of human interaction, family dynamics, friendship, and secrets in the wake of a natural disaster. In between the larger segments of Rowan’s story, readers are given a glimpse of what is happening to Rowan’s and Jake’s mothers, though readers are not privy to Rowan and Michael’s father’s story, at least, not until later.
Lockdown is also an examination of mob mentality and desperation in the face of dwindling supplies. Rowan is consistently confronted by questions of whether or not it’s better to withhold food and water in order to save her own family, or to share with some and end up with a riot on her hands. When Jake’s mother is found, her leadership style clashes with Rowan’s and Michael’s and emotions run high, leading to the revelation of some well-buried family secrets.
I hesitate to mention it, as I’m not sure how many teen readers will notice, but I wonder about the accuracy of the full impacts of such a large earthquake. I find it hard to believe that the Lions Gate Bridge and the Second Narrows would hold up, let alone be in shape for cars to use mere days later. I also found myself wanting more description of the aftermath. There was mention of a tsunami at one point as well, and yet there was no follow-up. I realize that the novel is focusing more on human interaction than the natural disaster, itself, but I feel that there was room for more detail throughout the narrative. There is also a brief mention of a gay character, but his identity and overall characterization are left more unexplored than I had hoped would be the case.
In the end, Bolitho has written some emotionally complex characters who are believable in the face of horrific circumstances. Lockdown is an intriguing story, illustrating a true fear for many British Columbia residents. A worthy addition to school and public library collections.
Rob Bittner recently graduated from the MA in Children’s Literature program at The University of British Columbia and is now a PhD student in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC.
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