Wednesday 16 July 2014

Echo Boy by Matt Haig

Audrey. Mind-log 427
It has been two weeks since my parents were killed.
It has been the longest two weeks of my life.
Everything has changed. Literally everything. The only thing that remains true is that I am still me.
That is, I am still a human called Audrey Castle.
I still look like me. I still have the same dark hair I got from my dad and the same hazel eyes from Mum.
My shoulders are still too wide.
I still walk like a boy.
I still think it would have been cool to live in the past.
Published by Random House 2014
403 pages in paperback review copy
Summary from Guardian Children’s Books website
Audrey's father taught her how to stay human in the modern world; he taught her to love books, music, philosophy and dreams, so that she would never be simply a machine, like the Echoes. Daniel is an Echo – but he’s not like the others. He feels a connection with Audrey; a feeling Daniel knows he was never designed to have, and cannot explain. And when Audrey is placed in terrible danger, he’s determined to save her.
I have to be honest, I am something of a Matt Haig fangirl – you can spot me for a brief moment on ‘The Humans’ trailer. So of course I was itching to read this first YA novel of his. 
As you can see from the extract and the summary, it could loosely be described as science fiction, which is not usually my thing. I review partly to experience work outside my comfort zone, so I plunged in anyway. If you’re not normally a fan of SF, don’t worry. Echo Boy is more of a thriller with a futuristic setting.
Yes, there are references to events that haven’t happened ‘yet’ and a reasonable amount of new technology but they don’t over-dominate the fundamental story. For me, it works best when he just mentions these in passing, and doesn’t really explain the mechanics or back story. That way, the plot zips along and we care about what happens to Audrey and Daniel.
Obviously, the human-android relationships are central to the book and Matt Haig uses these to explore what our humanity is. It is something he really engages with – and so do most YA readers, I would say. Older teens might well enjoy some of his adult work afterwards such as ‘The Radleys’ or ‘The Humans’.
Although it is marketed as a YA book, I think proficient readers of 9+ may well enjoy Echo Boy (not the others yet!). Both violence and romance are portrayed without exaggeration or callousness. Overall, it’s not difficult to read nor over-complicated. The perspective shifts – but you do know who is ‘talking’. There is definite peril and distress, but the feeling I was left with after reading was not oppressive, but hopeful.
So in short, I would recommend this for any competent reader who likes a good thick read with plenty of action and suspense but with emotions at its core. They would be happy with exploring a less-than-perfect vision of the future and intrigued by the implications of thinking androids.

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