cover image The Only Ones

The Only Ones

Aaron Starmer. Delacorte, $17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-74043-2

In Starmer's (Dweeb) unsettling post-apocalyptic tale, Martin Maple has grown up with his father on an island in near- total isolation. When his father fails to return from a trip to the mainland, 12-year-old Martin ventures ashore for the first time and finds everyone gone. Traveling across the country, he discovers nothing but empty homes and abandoned cars until he reaches Xibalba, a town populated by a group of misfit children, apparently the last people left on Earth. While on the island, Martin and his father had built a complex, Rube Goldbergesque machine of unknown purpose: "The less you understand, the better," Martin's father says. "It's a powerful thing, and if it's misused, the results could be devastating.' " Martin now believes that the machine is a spaceship and that by building another one he and the other children can find their missing families. In reality, the machine is something much odder. Owing as much to dreams as to science fiction, this strange tale can be riveting, but its quirky characters are sometimes difficult to believe in as young adolescents, and its d%C3%A9nouement feels contrived. Ages 10%E2%80%93up. (Sept.)