cover image Exile from Eden

Exile from Eden

Andrew Smith. Simon & Schuster, $18.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5344-2223-0

Smith follows his Printz Honor book Grasshopper Jungle with this rewarding novel that takes place 16 years later, when Arek Szerba, 16, goes in search of his missing fathers, Austin and Robby. Arek, along with Robby’s 15-year-old sister, Amelia (“Mel”) Sing Brees, has lived his whole life in “the hole,” an extensive underground bunker where they are safe from the nine-foot-tall Unstoppable Soldiers roaming above. The mutant mantises have eaten most of humankind, so when Austin and Robby fail to return from one of their habitual forays outside, Arek takes to the road to find them, secretly accompanied by Mel. Episodes of Arek’s earlier years in the hole are interwoven with the pair’s journey across the U.S. and the travelogue of 12-year-old Breakfast and his silent companion, Olive. Philosophical passages and reflections on the paintings of Max Beckmann mix with Arek’s longings for Mel and concerns about masturbation and the threat of circumcision by his hyper-religious grandmother. The combination of the base and off-the-wall with the deeply thoughtful gives this singular offering the air of a classic bildungsroman with a modern twist. Ages 14–up. [em](Sept.) [/em]