The Extraordinary Colours of Auden Dare by Zillah Bethell
|The Extraordinary Colours of Auden Dare by Zillah Bethell|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Middle grade adventure set in a near-future dystopian Britain of water shortages, featuring a central character who can't discern colour, his fabulous friend and a brilliant robot. Fresh, original, funny and moving.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: September 2017|
|Publisher: Piccadilly Press|
|External links: Author's website|
Auden has a condition called achromatopsia, which means that he can't see colours. He likes to pretend that it doesn't matter but it does. And the older Auden gets, the more it seems to matter. Mind you, so does everything else...
... because Auden lives in a near-future Britain in a world where climate change has taken root. It never rains any more. Britain, an island with plenty of coastline, is doing better than many countries thanks to its desalination plants. But water is still rationed and the Water Authority Board is now a quasi-government as the most important and powerful body in the land. Water wars have broken out worldwide and Auden's father is away fighting.
Auden and his mother are thirsty all the time and pretty smelly too - washing is a luxury these days. So, when Auden's uncle Jonah dies and leaves his cottage to his sister, Auden's mother decides to escape the hot, sweaty city and get a fresh start in the countryside. Auden has to start a new school complete, of course, with bullies. But he does make a new friend in Vivi and together, the two make an extraordinary discovery - in a shed in Uncle Jonah's garden lies a robot who calls himself Paragon. Auden is convinced that Paragon is evidence that Uncle Jonah was working on a cure for achromatopsia before he died. But if that's the case, why is the Water Authority Board taking such an interest?
Oh! I loved The Extraordinary Colours of Auden Dare, I really did. There aren't that many speculative dystopian stories aimed at middle grade readers but this one fits the bill nicely. It's a bounding adventure with lots of twists and turns that will keep its readers guessing. It's quite clear about the authoritarian country Britain has become as the consequences of climate change affect every aspect of daily life, but it isn't too scary and won't give anyone nightmares. And it's funny too - Paragon the robot is hilarious, and the friendship between Auden, who can be both pompous and sarcastic, and Vivi, who tells it like it is, made me laugh.
There are several mysteries to solve and uncover, a boy with a disability he resents and must learn to come to terms with, and world to save. Bethell has built her near-future Britain with care and includes detailed touches - potatoes cost several thousand pounds for a kilo, drones and bots monitor everything and everyone, school lessons are based on students researching topics on their tablets - that make it very real.
Oh, and I cried at the end.
The Extraordinary Colours of Auden Dare is fresh, original, funny and moving. And if Uncle Jonah could make a Paragon for me, I'd be most grateful.
Readers interested in speculative stories about climate change might also enjoy The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd. And there's also After Tomorrow by Gillian Cross, a brilliant role reversal story in which a British boy finds himself an unwanted refugee in France after a banking collapse.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Extraordinary Colours of Auden Dare by Zillah Bethell at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Extraordinary Colours of Auden Dare by Zillah Bethell at Amazon.com.
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