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The Drowned Cities
by Paolo Bacigalupi
PUBL. RECOMMENDED AGE: 14 and up
PUBLISHER: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
YEAR PUBLISHED: 2012
NO. PAGES: 448
GENRE{S}: Dystopian Fiction
MAIN CHARACTER GENDER: Mixed
ISBN: 0316056243
READ & REVIEWED BY: Jen - StorySnoop


The Story
The Drowned Cities—Book Review

After the peacekeepers gave up on bringing order to the barbaric Drowned Cities and returned to China, Mahlia and Mouse fled the decimated region ruled by sadistic warlords for the relative safety of Banyan Town in the jungle. If not for the kindness of a pacifist doctor, these two war maggots would have been rejected as outcasts. Instead they are begrudgingly accepted by the townspeople. But when a platoon of ruthless soldiers in pursuit of a half-man--a bioengineered killing machine--crosses their path, Mahlia and the entire town must endure their wrath. With nowhere else to turn, Mahlia strikes a deal with the wounded half man that will lead them to safety. But when Mouse's conscience gets the best of him and he returns to help the townspeople who once took him in, he is taken prisoner by the soldiers. Now Mahlia must choose between freedom and saving the one person who once risked everything to save her.
The Scoop
The Drowned Cities—Book Review
{spoiler alert}

Written by a Michael L. Printz Award Winner and National Book Award Finalist, Drowned Cities is a dark, powerful, and tragic tale of war set in a future America. Ironically, the story takes place in the area around Washington D.C., which had been occupied by Chinese peacekeepers who had hoped to restore democracy and make peace among the warlords. Unsuccessful, the peacekeepers retuned to China leaving the city in control of the warlords brutally battling for territory. Mahlia's father was a peacekeeper and, because of this, she is hated and repudiated as a castoff. If not for her courage and her survival instinct, she would have already been killed by one of the warlord's armies along with the other castoff children. Mahlia was only able to escape the Drowned Cities because of her friend Mouse, who rescued her from bloodthirsty soldiers. The two share a close bond, leveraging each of their respective strengths to survive as a team. One of the book's primary themes is "what goes around comes around," which is demonstrated in many ways throughout the story as characters get back what they give out, both good and bad. The story also communicates a powerful message about the senselessness of war as characters are repeatedly faced with an impossible choice--either die or live as a pawn of the war. There is much violence, including descriptions of war atrocities, which can be disturbing at times. The platoon that "recruits" Mouse is led by a sadistic lieutenant who enjoys making people suffer and uses vicious techniques to indoctrinate new soldiers as young as ten years old. Heartbreakingly, Mouse loses his humanity and buries the person he was deep inside, becoming just another barbaric soldier boy. Language is occasionally strong but infrequent (h-ll, d-mn, a-s, sh-t, b-stard, pr-ck). This increasingly suspenseful and always thought-provoking read provides lots of discussion material and would be an excellent choice for a high school book report or book club.
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The Drowned Cities—Book Review

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