The Last Wild by Piers Torday
Reviewed by Arian B.
Full disclosure, I love animals. Pretty much any kind. Even the ones that a lot of people think are gross. I’m the person at a party who will go sit with the host’s cat/dog/bunny/chicken and be totally happy and content. As a child I obsessed over books with various creatures. My mom still likes to remind me of being two years old and looking at her Audubon society books for hours while sitting in my little blue chair next to my bookshelf. I couldn’t get enough. I was raised by parents with equal animal obsessions. My dad’s childhood was like something out of a Gerald Durrell book, and my mother has rescued more animals than I can even recall at this point. I was sort of destined to be this way. So, when our Penguin publishing rep held up a copy of a book with an adorably whimsical illustration of a boy riding on the back of a deer (a thing I totally dreamed of and wished I could do as a kid) I immediately raised my hand like I was in first grade again and said, “Me, I want that one!”
I was not disappointed. The Last Wild by Piers Torday is an amazing tale of adventure and compassion. Though this is a chapter book aimed at middle grade readers, it could easily be enjoyed by a reader of any age. I found myself just as swept up in the story now as I’m sure I would have been at age 10. The story begins with 12 year old Kester Jaynes. He is in the miserable sort of place children seem to end up in stories, an asylum of sorts for troubled children. If being in this awful place wasn’t enough, a great disease has ravaged the earth and wiped out the world’s animals, with the exception of a few “vermin” (cockroaches, pigeons, rats, etc). Every day is an exercise in tedium for Kester. Til one day, he hears someone speaking. That someone turns out to be a cockroach. A cockroach with a plan. He wants to free Kester of this terrible place and take him to “The Last Wild.” Like many of us would, Kester wonders if he really has gone crazy, but decides to go as it may be his only shot at freedom. After a suspenseful escape Kester is taken to meet a small group of animals. There they inform him he is the only person who can help save them, and cure the remaining animals that are still living with the “red eye” virus. This starts the beginning of an amazing journey.
Torday has written a beautiful, funny, sometimes heartbreaking, and action packed book. He also has written a book that will make you think. Reading these animals’ accounts of trying to survive in a world where most of their fellow species had already disappeared was even more devastating from an adult perspective. Knowing the very real threat that animals are already facing in the world made this book all the more poignant for me. The attention to detail in the creation of his characters is amazing, and leaves you feeling deep connections to every one of them. So much so, that if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself in tears a few times. There is a great deal of hope to be had in this book though, and quite a bit of laughter. The plot is fast moving, without sacrificing language or content, which will appeal to children especially. An amazing tale of adventure and friendship that you won’t want to put down. Now, when does the sequel come out?
Copies of The Last Wild are available on our shelves at BookPeople and via bookpeople.com.