Author: Robert Muchamore
Genre: Young Adult Fiction Ages 16+
Review by: Betty, Maynooth Library
‘Arctic Zoo’ by the renowned bestselling author Robert Muchamore tells the stories of two young people, Julius Adebisi from Akure, a town in Ondo State, Nigeria and Georgia Pack from England and the series of enthralling and tragic events bring them into together.
The dual narratives of Julius and Georgia are well told and the distinct narrative voices of each young character come through clearly in the story. The shifting of time through the book, bringing us from where the book begins , with both Julius and Georgia in an adolescent Mental Health Unit in East Grinstead, UK, to past events leading up to how both young people ended up in the Mental Health Unit, to describing events following Georgia’s and Julius’ arrival in the Mental Health Unit, works very well, drawing the reader into the story.
The book addresses serious themes including homophobia and suicide. There are moments of terrible violence in the story as well, including an horrific and fatal homophobic attack on Julius’ partner, Duke, a drone attack on a fictional British Prime Minister which goes terribly wrong and a devastating bombing in Akure. There are moments of humour in the story, however, including when Georgia’s PR advisor, a journalist named Wendy, tells her if she wants to get people interested in the violence happening in Akure, she needs draw them in first by sending a tweet about Eddie, a polar bear with a gammy eye in an Arctic Zoo in Akure: “If you want people to take an interest in Akure, a one-eyed polar bear that nobody wants is definitely a story”, Wendy tells Georgia. There are also moments of terrific tension in the story, such as the build up to a drone attack on a fictional British Prime Minister by a radical elements of a left -wing group Georgia falls in with following the death of her sister and the trial following the drone attack.
If there were some criticisms of the book that I would have, they would be that there are perhaps too many narratives in the story and it would be better to perhaps focus on one narrative for the book, such as Julius’ realising he is gay and confronting terrible homophobia or the effect of the death of Georgia’s sister by suicide on Georgia. I would also have liked to have seen the Arctic Zoo of the title play a more central role in the story.
I would recommend the story for 15-18 year olds and would give it 3.5 stars.