A solid debut from a very promising author…
Dawkins explores survival, trust, betrayal, grief, loss, and trauma—both individual and collective in this richly imagined and perfectly crafted tale set in a dystopian future. In a futuristic world ravaged by devastating calamities, The We, a group of young people, find themselves confounded by hunger, struggling to survive. When another community, the They, arrive with an offer of luxurious meals and secure shelter at their farm, the We find the proposal too good to let it go. But things are not as they seem on surface. Soon the group find themselves facing a far greater danger than starvation: they are merely a pawn in the greater scheme of things for the They. Dawkins skillfully employs multiple conventions of the dystopian genre—devastating living conditions, characters brought together by adversity, poignant relationships, cruelties, tyranny, distorted perception, and bleak far-future setting. She deftly builds the chemistry between Rose and Samson, and the easy friendship between Zenith and Jordon give this story a genuine emotional feel. By turns vulnerable and resilient, the We are an easy group to root for, and the scenes where they try to come to terms with the reality of the They’s real identity are sketched with skill and authenticity. The bond between the We is touching, and Dawkins cleverly keeps the We’s fate uncertain until the very end, keeping readers on the edge of their seats to find out if they really will be able to make their escape. The They make for thoroughly formidable and despicable antagonists with their metal skin, rusty tears, and incessant greed for flame. A menacing uncertainty regarding the They’s true nature paves the way for a deeper, profound narrative when the We learn the truth. Through the We’s conflicted feelings about accepting the They’s offer and their obvious disregard of the danger in the face of starvation, Dawkins adeptly portrays the devastating effect of adversity on a person’s psyche. Despite slender size of the novel, Dawkins’s dystopian world is lavishly developed and her characters fully realized. Her economical prose is lyrical as she captures the feeling and essence of collective storytelling in an oral tradition. The sweet protectiveness of the We for each other, their gradual awareness and acceptance of themselves, the hope that people can heal and humanity can withstand any adversity offer further thoughtfully rendered touches. Heartfelt and genuine, this one will stay at readers minds long after they turn the last page.
The We and the They
By Kyra Ann Dawkins
New Degree Press
Pub date July 27, 2020
Price $15.99 (USD) Paperback, $5.07 Kindle edition