The Winnowing

The trickiest questions I’m asked at WPL’s Information Desk often come from vivacious teen dystopian readers. They have already read all the popular titles. They were captivated by The Hunger Games long before it was popular. They were engrossed in Divergent long before it was made into a movie. They devoured Lois Lowry’s books before they even got to high school. So what’s left to recommend? Thankfully, Canadian author Vikki VanSickle has come to the rescue with her latest title, The Winnowing.

The Winnowing offers a retelling of history, mixed with conspiracy and science fiction. After World War II the world faces a spreading infertility crisis. No children have been born since the end of the war and the human race faces extinction. Fast forward to 1989 – the small town of Darby, New Mexico is home to a group of scientists who have miraculously found a way to reverse the crisis. The cure is now administered to all children.

The book begins with a young woman, Marivic, having vivid nightmares of running through burning lava. The dream seems so real that it feels as though her feet are truly being scorched. This is the first sign of ACES (Adolescent Chromosomniatic Episodes), the side effect of the cure that all teenagers experience during the onset of puberty. Next, they will develop extraordinary abilities that stretch beyond human limitations. If they do not undergo a procedure called The Winnowing, they become a danger to themselves and those around them. Those who complete the winnowing are left with hazy memories, unable to recall any specific details of the procedure.

Like all teenagers in Darby, Marivic is sent to a medical centre to be treated for her ACES. Her best friend Saren is already there, having started treatment sometime earlier. Together they encounter a suspicious young man who claims to have information linking The Winnowing to more sinister events.

Science fiction enthusiasts will notice various references to famous sci-fi creators sprinkled throughout the novel, the most notable being the character of Dr. Roddenbury (a nod to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenbury).

The Winnowing, which is a Red Maple Fiction Award nominee, will appeal to vivacious dystopian fans, as well as those who enjoy a good conspiracy theory.

— Lesley L.

Girl Power

There has been a huge shift in the world recently: women and girls are taking centre stage, their voices are being heard, their talents, strengths, and abilities recognized. Books, movies, and television are featuring strong female characters, such as Katniss from The Hunger Games, Diana Prince from Wonder Woman, and Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones.

The heroine in Tyrell Johnson’s The Wolves of Winter is no different. Gwendolynn (Lynn) McBride is a survivalist in a world laid to ruin from nuclear war and a pandemic flu. Lynn and her family eke out an existence in the cold and snowy Yukon, away from what’s left of humankind and the clutches of disease. Lynn spends her days skillfully hunting with a bow and arrow, trapping animals, and remembering what life was like before. She is not afraid to speak her mind, or fight for what she feels is right. In my mind I picture Lynn like Ygritte, the wildling from Game of Thrones (she even has long red hair).

After seven years in the wilderness, Lynn is surprised to encounter a man named Jax and his dog, Wolf. She brings them home, never imagining the whirlwind that follows. Jax seems full of secrets and dangerous talents, and, when more strangers appear, things quickly spiral out of control. Lynn will find herself questioning everything and everyone she thought she knew.

This may be Johnson’s first book but I feel he does an amazing job of making you feel like you can see what Lynn is seeing; the Yukon he describes is beautiful but also dangerous.  Johnson’s apocalypse is believable: you only have to read newspaper headlines to feel afraid this book could come true. The plot really quickens in pace after Lynn meets Jax. The Wolves of Winter has action scenes, plot twists, and even some romance. I would not be surprised to see Johnson write a sequel to continue Lynn’s story. Overall, I would give The Wolves of Winter 4 out of 5 stars.

-Sandy W.