Carousel by Brendan Ritchie is an Australian book I picked up while vacationing in Australia. While meandering through the local bookstores, I was particularly pleased to see how many new YA releases there are, many of which I haven’t seen in the U.S. This one is a dystopian story that’s somewhat reminiscent of Emmy Laybourne’s Monument 14, in that it involves a group of young folks trapped in a shopping mall in the wake of an apocalyptic event of some kind. The apocalyptic event is not particularly well defined in Ritchie’s book, but that doesn’t matter a great deal because it’s not what the story’s about.
An interesting twist here is that two of the main characters are Canadian pop stars (sisters) so they are experiencing BOTH the apocalypse and the unfamiliar surroundings as circumstances that take them out of their comfort zone. They react in different ways that ultimately bring them closer together and also draw them back to their music.
The first person narrator, Nox, is a typical young Australian guy who reacts to the situation with a somewhat cool detachment. This works for the story because it plays against the angst of the other characters at times. However, occasionally his quiet detachment is a little bit of a drag and bogs down the pacing. The story is told mainly through his internal thoughts which has both advantages and drawbacks because he’s such a cool character. When he does interact with others through dialogue, the story really sings from the page, so it may have been nice to have a few more in-scene dialogue episodes rather than to have so much of the story told in Nox’s head.
The mystery of what’s happened, why these characters in particular are trapped, and how they go about escaping their prison are all highly engaging and imaginative. The idea of a shopping mall as an allegory for a young person’s world is also highly effective and I think would make sense to readers in all countries even though a lot of the references are to specific stores in Australia.
I found this a fun and engaging read. It’s a strong debut YA novel from Ritchie and I’m interested to see what he comes up with next.