Abby, 13, is looking forward to watching the moon turn purple, unaware that bacteria from a passing comet will soon kill off older teens and adults. She must help her brother and baby sister survive in this new world, but all the while she has a ticking time bomb inside of her–adolescence.
***** Review *****
Abby and her siblings are outsiders on Castine Island, despite their grandparents residing there most of their lives and their father growing up on the island. Recently moved from Cambridge and living in split households, Abby wants to go back home.
The world is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the purple moon – caused by a purple comet entering the Earth’s atmosphere. This has been an expected and seemingly safe thing. Even a special purple beer was made by a national beer distributor, and pizza places are delivering purple pizzas. It’s a pretty big deal. However, the following morning Abby and her brother Jordan make a chilling discovery: their father is dead. They see a delivery truck crashed into the lawn across the street, driver slumped over. The new kids next door have come over with the same news of their parents. Something in the bacteria of the comet – released into the Earth’s atmosphere forever – killed off all adults who breathed it. Quickly, the kids of Castine Island come together to make decisions about what they will do…how they will survive, and how they will teach the younger kids the necessary things so they may continue when the big kids have succumbed to the comet bacteria.
- Abby Leigh – a 13 year old red-head 7th grader on the island, Jordan and Touk’s older sister
- Jordan Leigh – Abby’s younger 6th grade brother; has a lot of friends on the island
- Toucan Leigh – Abby and Jordan’s toddler sister
- Emily Patel – a sweet Hindu girl; sister to Kevin
- Kevin Patel – a kid genius, brother to Emily
- Toby – the school bully; rude and crude
- Chad and Glen – Toby’s croonies; they follow in Toby’s shadow
- Mel – Abby’s friend back home in Cambridge
- Timmy – a youngster of six or seven found by Abby on the mainland
- Mandy – a hardcore, aggressive pre-teen part of a motorcycle gang on the mainland
Stars burned fiercely in the coal-black sky. The outlines of the moon’s craters were crisp. A bright dot moved slowly across the sky.
Before stepping outside, she looked at her sister and brother as if it might be for the last time. She swallowed hard and tried to drive this sad, frightening thought from her mind.
A quarter mile off shore, they had a good vie of the mansion. Laundry hung on the lines, and hundreds of rain buckets sat empty on the lawn. Cars filled the driveway and lined the road. Smoke leeched out of the mackerel smoke house. The American flag fluttered in the breeze. It looked like the circus had come to town.
Eddie crumpled to his knees and sobbed. Abby did not think it was possible for her heart to break further, but Eddie proved her wrong when he pulled back the covers and climbed beside the girl he loved.
A wave of grief washed over Abby and she felt her heart explode. The shattered pieces settled into the darkest part of her soul like snowflakes. She sank to her knees, inwardly tossed and tumbled by turbulence. She heard mournful sobbing in the distance and realized she was hearing herself.
The thought took root in her mind. She, alone, was responsible for her feelings. She had no control over the surroundings. Why should she allow the surroundings to control her feelings?
The Highs and Lows
- + Plot. The plot is something entirely different and original. How can the children of the world survive this new apocalypse? Anyone past puberty is dead* and those who are hitting puberty break out – clear signs that they will not last long.
*Except, not. Only the adults who breathe the murderous purple comet bacteria.
- – Puberty. I teach sixth grade (age 10-11), and I can definitely speak to the fact that almost all the students I have taught hit puberty by seventh grade (age 11-12). There are several characters grouped together who are right at puberty age (or past it), and that was used as a ticking time factor, but I found it somewhat illogical and unrealistic.
- + Toucan. Is adorable. I want one.
- + Heartfelt. As the Castine Island kids band together and work out a plan to survive, there was a budding romance between the Leighs and the Patels: Emily and Jordan, and Abby and Kevin. The way that Jordan cares for Emily throughout everything and the reverence he has for her is phenomenal in a kid so young. Emily is a lasting impression for Jordan, and Abby comes to realize just how much Kevin means to her.
- + Kevin Patel. The kid is a genius. He helps the kids of Castine Island in so many ways. He sets them up to be successful and survive these dark, uncertain times. He even teaches the younger kids at the public library!
- – The Bacteria. The bacteria is like the boogie man. You can’t really see it or smell it. It can’t be identified but it is present in the atmosphere and things still have a purple haze. They do listen to the radio broadcasts from the CDC and learn about the bacteria: it affects those with elevated hormonal levels of estrogen and testosterone. The unknown feeling of a ticking time bomb leaves everything up in the air for the big kids. I was constantly wondering if (or when) one of them would hit puberty full-on. Of course, this only propelled the plot and built more suspense – and anxiety for the characters.
- + Descriptive Writing. There were wonderful descriptions sprinkled throughout the the novel. It was so sensory I felt like I was there. I had this little movie reel playing in my head as I read.
- + The Mansion. There are 26 Castine Island survivors plus two babies who decide to band together and take up residence at a mansion on the island. There is plenty of space, and this small band of (primarily) locals iron out specific jobs and duties. They take care of the island and themselves and no one is left behind or alone. They do everything they can to survive and make the island livable. I loved the different snippets of various characters at the mansion and seeing what jobs and tasks they were responsible for. These kids, from babies to pre-teens, grow up at the mansion. It is a symbol of hope and their future.
- + Abby. She is like the mother of all on the island. She has a lot of influence even though she’s not the oldest. During such a stressful time she maintained her calm and cool and took care of business for Castine Island and its survivors.
- – Toby. He starts off as an asshole, as described by another kid, and decides to be a rebel. He and his band of croonies (Chad and Glen) do not live at the mansion and instead “live it up” scavenging the island and people’s homes. They also sneak to the mansion and take items and food, infuriating several of the mansion residents. Toby is the kind of character who makes it easy to hate him.
- The Journey. Abby and Jordan journey to the mainland to save the survivors of Castine Island. Along the way they inhert two more members: little Timmy and hardcore Mandy.
There were genuine emotions – from multiple characters – that made the purple comet and all the aftereffects seem so real. This development of the characters and the plot could have been easily overlooked and kind of wiped on by as the novel progresses, but they are present and they are real. It gave the book heart.
Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip?
Buy it. Even if you don’t want to continue reading the trilogy, I highly recommend buying this one. I typically do not like to buy physical books, but this is one I do want to purchase and have on my shelf to re-read. This is just one you want to have around.
***** About the Author *****
Scott Cramer has written feature articles for national magazines, optioned a screenplay, and worked in high-tech communications. The Toucan Trilogy –Night of the Purple Moon, Colony East, and Generation M– are his first novels. Scott and his wife have two daughters and reside outside Lowell, Massachusetts.