Rows and rows of houses sit empty. The lights are on. The clocks still tick. But everyone is gone. Only 12-year-old Maddie remains. She is the only human left for miles. She waits to see if anyone – any other human being – will return. Alone by Megan Freeman is a story about the endurance of the human spirit. How long can one person endure endless solitude?
A typical pre-teen, Maddie and her friends plan a secret sleepover that their parents don’t know about. The plan was to spend the night at Maddie’s grandparent’s empty summer apartment. But the plans change and Maddie decides to spend the night alone. She wakes up in the morning to find an unread alert on her phone – something about an imminent threat. The city is to be evacuated immediately. But the streets are already empty. Frantic calls to her parents go unanswered. She goes from house to house to building to building but finds no one. Everything looks untouched. Dogs bark from behind closed doors. Where did everyone go?
As time goes on, the power shuts off. Maddie has to scramble to find food and clean water. While foraging for supplies at her neighbour’s house, she comes across a hungry Rottweiler named George. He becomes her sole companion as she struggles to survive. Weeks turn into months and months turn into years. The wilderness overtakes the city. Wild animals roam the streets. The winter months grow even colder. The isolation begins to threaten Maddie’s sanity.
One day Maddie stumbles across the first human voices she’s heard in a very longtime. Can she trust these people? Where did they come from? Are they part of this mysterious threat? How much can she risk?
Alone is just as much a character journey as it is a survival story. Written in free verse, Maddie’s emotional state pours onto the page as she wrestles with her fate: there is no rescue, she is utterly alone. Fear, anxiety and sadness are just as threatening to her survival as hunger and thirst. As someone who works amongst books, I was pleased that the library played such a large part in Maddie’s survival in Alone. When Google is no longer an option, Maddie goes to the stacks of non-fiction books to research everything from sowing seeds to how to light a fire. To keep her mind occupied she starts at one end of the fiction section and reads the collection, book by book. Reading becomes as essential to Maddie as water.
There is so much to unpack in this novel. It is an easy read yet it prompts so many questions. What is life when everything in it is gone? Alone is a great fit for those who enjoyed Hatchet and the I Survived series.
— Lesley L.