Nineteen years ago, a brain disease known as the Great Madness killed most of the world’s population. The survivors all had something different about their minds. Now, at the start of adolescence, their children enter a trance-like state known as the Changeland and either emerge with special mental powers or as cannibalistic Ferals.
In the great forest of south-western Australia, thirteen year-old Arika and her twin brother Narrah go through the Changeland. They encounter an enemy known as the Anteater who feeds on human life. He exists both in the Changeland and in the outside world, and he wants the twins dead.
After their Changings, the twins have powers that let them fight their enemy and face their destiny on a long journey to an abandoned American military base on the north-west coast of Australia. If they can reach it before time runs out.
CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT is a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel set among the varied landscapes and wildlife of Western Australia.
Post-apocalyptic fantasy novels are interesting ones for sure. Mark Lawrence’s The Broken Empire Trilogy springs to mind whilst on screen you have the Mad Max movies, which are also, like Children of the Different, set in Australia. One thing that this novel benefits from is that despite being young adult, it doesn’t subscribe to the usual cliches of the genre, staying away from the tried and tested trends that you might expect, and the result quickly proves to be a fascinating read.
We’re introduced to twins Arika and Narrah who are thirteen years old and the post-apocalypse landscape of Australia is all they’ve ever known. Nineteen years ago the world fell victim to the Great Madness which wiped out most of the world’s population, but forced the survivors’ children to enter the Changeland at the start of adolescence, where they either become mad cannibals or emerge with mental powers. However the Changeland is not the only danger that the twins have to face as they find themselves hunted in both reality and the Changeland by the AntEater, who is hunting the twins and wants them dead. It’s an interesting plot and one that plays out pretty well, making the most of the setting to tell an engaging story.
The split between the Changeland and the everyday world is handled well and it works strongly. It helps that the twins are both written strongly as well as both Arika and Narrah benefit from their closely bonded relationship, surviving challenges that they would never be able to do alone. It’s interesting to watch them explore the world in the Changeland as we get to see a fairly unique version of a post-apocalyptic nightmare which again strays clear of what is commonly found in the genre, feeling like a breath of fresh air, even if in the normal landscape you do get the Cannibal-like creatures known as the Ferals. Regardless of the landscape though there is always a source of tension which plays out strongly through the novel.
Children of the Different manages to stand out from the crowd in terms of your average young adult dystopian. It is a coming of age story, and a quest, but if you’re looking for something that with a few name changes could easily take place in the world of say The Maze Runner or Divergent then think again. Mad Max aside the book benefits from its unusual decision to set the action in Australia and as usual, the love-triangle elements of the genre don’t apply here. Arika and Narrah are both well-developed characters in their own right and it’s refreshing to see a brother-sister pair at the core of the novel rather than one of the siblings being used simply to get the main protagonist to do stuff.
Flynn’s novel does suffer from a few moments of exposition over the course of the book and the dialogue doesn’t always work but for the most part these are only minor issues as for the most part, Children of the Different remains an enjoyable read from start to finish that younger audiences will get the best out of but there is plenty to enjoy for older readers as well. It therefore comes recommended if you’re looking for a fresh and exciting experience in an otherwise overcrowded genre.