Post-apocalyptic books are something of a fad right now. The Hunger Games is easily one of the most popular and recognizable post-apocalyptic stories, both in it’s book and movie form. But before they reached mass popularity there were others like Stephen King’s The Stand and Walter M. Miller Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, both of which weren’t part of a growing craze. Laura van den Berg, best known for releasing two short story collections, is finally releasing her first novel which fits in the this category loosely enough that it doesn’t fall prey to cliches and overused themes.
Find Me starts with main character Joy Jones. She’s in a hospital in the middle of Kansas. A sickness is sweeping the nation and Joy was brought to this hospital because she was thought to be immune from whatever disease is killing all these people. The Hospital (the literal name of the facility) is split into ten levels. Eight out of the ten are residential for the people living there, though they don’t seem to live much outside community meetings and medical testing. Basically, as Joy surmises, they are just to live at The Hospital until they either get sick or make it through their ten month contracts. Once the ten months is up, if they haven’t gotten sick, they are supposedly immune and will be allowed to leave on their own. The patients are poked and prodded every morning, constantly tested to make sure they are well. If one shows signs of the sickness, usually in form of silver blisters, they are carted off to another floor to meet their death. However, Joy doesn’t feel that she has much to live for outside The Hospital. She was given up, actually left in a box, for adoption when she was just an infant. She bounced around from group home to foster home, until she turned eighteen and was no longer a problem of the state. When extenuating circumstances due to anothers mistake leave her able to leave The Hospital before her ten month stay is over, Joy heads straight south for Florida; the last known place where her mother is reported to have lived.
van den Berg really has a way with words. Find Me is written in such a poetic, natural flowing manner that the reader will find they do not want it to end, but they also cannot stop reading; such a difficult conundrum. The story is composed of a small cast of characters, each with their own incredibly important characteristics. Though each of the characters presents with flaws and facets, some of them truly turn out loveable by the novels end. The story too is something rather unique. As previously mentioned, there is a bit of a post-apocalyptic craze right now, actually since The Hunger Games blew up. Find Me doesn’t really buy into that epidemic in terms of ripping off tropes and plots. Instead van den Berg does a fantastic job with creating a world that’s pre/present/post disease and shows the effect that something major can have on a country, but not something completely world shattering. What’s left when she’s finished is a beautiful tale about rising above the odds; finding oneself and taking charge of your destiny.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 – Find Me will undoubtedly be named one of the best of 2015. It’s got a pretty conventional plot, but it’s told in such an amazing, charismatic manner that it definitely should be shortlisted for a prize somewhere.