Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Lost Code (Book 1 of The Atlanteans)

The Lost Code (Book 1 of The Atlanteans), by Kevin Emerson, is a fun post-apocalyptic, dystopian adventure that advertises itself too cheaply. Since when did The Hunger Games become the new standard for violence in young adult fiction, making anything "tamer" be geared toward a younger audience? That makes it sound like anything other than hardcore is boring, and in my opinion, if it's too boring for young adult, it's probably too boring, period.

Here's the deal. There is some discussion going around on whether or not The Lost Code is for younger teen readers than many other popular young adult novels. For instance, it's being compared to Gone, which is about kids who are of a similar age, but which has, perhaps, heavier thematic content and scarier danger. Supposedly, it's for a younger audience than Gone is. I disagree. They may be for different audiences, but it's misleading to say a book is for a younger audience. That implies that older teens won't enjoy it, which simply isn't true. I can understand if a teen isn't mature enough for some books. In that case, perhaps The Lost Code is better for younger readers than Gone is. However, readers shouldn't automatically infer that it works in the opposite direction: that some readers are too old for a book. If a book is written well, nobody should be too old for it. I'm fast approaching the end of three decades (Sheesh! That makes me sound old!), and I love young adult novels. It's because they are often good stories, and good stories are universal.

I think one reason people are saying this book is for younger readers is because Owen, the main character, does sometimes seem like a younger teen. He's not immature, but the other kids his age around him are pretty immature, making you wonder just how old he might be. I don't believe the book ever gives an exact age. There is a notable difference between the mind of Katniss (Hunger Games) and that of Owen (though Owen and Gone's Sam aren't that far off from each other), so I can see why someone might say The Lost Code is for a younger audience than The Hunger Games.

The issue, though, seems to be more about the book's content than the age of the kids in the book. The Lost Code is not as violent or scary as The Hunger Games or Gone, granted. But advertising it as tamed-down adventure might lose it some readers who might have actually enjoyed it (almost lost me). There is actually a scene as gruesome as some in more hardcore books, although The Lost Code isn't kids pitted against other kids, which adds a certain horror and ups the stakes, perhaps. I don't think a book should be considered only for a younger audience just because it's on the lighter side, and on the other hand, I don't think young readers should always be protected from reading heavier stuff (though that should be determined by parents on a child-by-child basis). It's my belief that the important thing is story, and this story holds its own.

In The Lost Code, Owen gets to go from his underground community to summer camp in one of only a few specially designed domes, protecting people from the end-of-the-world conditions and radiation outside. He immediately fails the swim test and drowns; only, he doesn't. His body adapts to his surroundings, and suddenly, he finds himself part of something much bigger than he ever dreamed could come out of summer camp: an ancient secret related to the location of the domes and the very genetic make-up of his DNA. To say the least, things aren't what they seem at Camp Eden.

Evoking summer camp nostalgia, Emerson creates a world desperately trying to pretend everything isn't falling apart. This juxtaposition, along with bits of romance, science fiction, fantasy, and mystery, makes this an intriguing, entertaining read. As the plot develops, it gets more complex, and the end promises more high-stakes danger and adventure to follow in future books. Summer camp seems so mundane for a book about the end of the world, but I think that's why the story is so interesting and strong. It's the familiar juxtaposed against the future, and who doesn't love to speculate about that?

The Lost Code is available this month. Three stars.


  1. Thankyou! I have been looking for lists such as yours! I don't like reading a lot of adult books because of their focus on horror, or 'romance,' but good yound adult books are hard to find too. The last good series I read was the praire wind series. That was a long time ago lol.

    1. Glad I could help! Hope you find something you like here!


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