This is another dystopian YA book. It takes place 15 years after the war with China. The United States is in ruins, no power grid, no government, no civilization, no infrastructure, no nothing. There were also 11 plagues that took many peoples' lives and there is no modern medical care. That being said, this book shows the possibility of hope and belief that people would still exist that could rise above the chaos.
The main character, Stephen, is a 15 year old boy who has never known the "old world" and has grown up traveling around with his father and grandfather trying to find scrap to sell to exist. He loses both to disease and peril and is alone. He is rescued by two people who take him to their town and help him. The story then becomes a story about values, kindness, and adjusting to change. Stephen has to learn to trust, to believe that kindness can exist, that hope in a better future is possible.
This book is a very worthy discussion book because it goes beyond the fighting and chaos that characterizes so many (Maze Runner) dystopian novels that have no real purpose. How much help should a person help another? Is it okay to help only if it doesn't hurt your own resources or is it more moral to help if it is sacrificial. Is it okay to kill others? self-defense? pre-emptive defense? to get resources? just because? then there is the issue of slavery. The possibilities are wide for discussion with this book.