Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson, adapted by Dan Jolley, art by Joelle Jones

A world-wide plague killed everyone under the age of 13.  There are only children left.  Lisa, her brother Todd and the other children in her Grandville neighborhood are struggling to survive.  Lisa is smarter than most.  She won't let fear get the better of her.  She knows if they're going to make it, they need to organize with the other children and figure out a way to find food and protect themselves from wandering gangs.  The first step is finding a place where they can all live but is easy to protect, and Lisa thinks she's found the perfect place.

This is the graphic novel adaptation of O.T. Nelson's 1970s novel of the same name.  I remember reading it in 7th grade.  Possible the original "there's a virus and there are only children left" YA dystopia novel?  There are so many now it's hard to keep track.  Even though it's almost 40 years old, it's still an excellent one.  No updates needed.

With only children left, there is no electricity, food production, medical help, etc.  The kids have to figure out how to care form themselves completely, starting with getting food.  Lisa is smart and determined.  She knows how to find what she and her brother need and is frustrated at the people who take things from her because they aren't smart enough to get it themselves.  She organizes the other neighborhood children, in particular to protect themselves from a local gang.  When her house is burned down, she realizes that they need to be somewhere they can fortify, and she moves her neighborhood to the local high school.

Lisa is a good leader.  She has a very difficult job that no one else really wants, although she angers people by always referring to Glenbard as "her" city.  Of course, as soon as she gets things up and running, they are attacked by gangs that want what they have.  Lisa is prepared for this, and the children fight back.

It's such an interesting psychological look at people.  Some people collapse under difficult situations, some people rise up, and some people survive by taking things from others.  The gangs that attack Glenbard don't know how to continue to run things (as we see when Lisa is shot and injured and her city is taken over).  Really, they're just as scared as everyone else, but have found a different way to deal with it.  Rather than finding people to work with, they find people to take control of.

O.T. Nelson never wrote anything else.  We don't know what happened to this world.  Did they survive and create a new civilization?  Did everyone die when they turned 13, or is the virus gone?  Was Lisa's city able to fight off the King of Chicago?  All unanswered questions, from the days when ever book was not a series and you had to imagine what happened yourself.

A great story and a fascinating look at people.

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