cover image Floodland


Marcus Sedgwick. Delacorte Press, $15.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32801-2

British illustrator Sedgwick's futuristic first novel begins with an interesting premise--that global warming has caused the seas to rise, submerging whole sections of England--but, unfortunately, the story does not fully succeed. Young Zoe, left behind when a rescue boat takes her parents from Norwich to higher ground, escapes alone in a small rowboat. She lands on the Island of Eels, where tribes struggle for precious food and water. There Zoe meets some predictable characters, such as the mad seer, William Blake; the corrupt leader, Doobie, with an Achilles heel (he can't swim); and the tough boy with a soft interior, Munchkin. Her own character is inconsistent; she is alternately spunky and wary of everyone around her, brave then easily cowered or swayed by the Eels (e.g., referring to Doobie, ""She had caught herself liking him""). When Zoe and Munchkin escape to the mainland, the author abandons the initial message about the earth's fragility in favor of an upbeat and unlikely ending, as Zoe and Munchkin find evidence that the floods have abated. The final reunion scene seems more cloying than believable. Despite some page-turning chapters, Zoe and her story lack the credibility to sustain readers through the contradictory themes and sometimes unimaginative prose (""The thought of home stabbed her like a knife"" or ""a creeping fear began to seep into her""). Ages 8-12. (Mar.)