- Book Title: The First Twenty
- Book Series: Standalone
- Author: Jennifer Lavoie
- Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (May 18, 2015)
- Book Length: 215 pages
- Genre: Lesbian, Young Adult, Romance, Sci-fi
- Reviewed by: Petra
- Rating: 4 Star
Our planet, as we know it, has ceased to exist. Mother Nature has reclaimed our cities and towns. Most of humanity has died in rampaging disease and natural disasters. Electricity is no longer available as no electricity plants are being operated and those of humankind who have survived don’t have the knowledge to get them back up and running again. No internet, no phones, no supermarkets, no restaurants, no homes, no reserves, no anything of use. The only ones to survive are those people who manage to adapt to the new situation; who learn to forage or grow crop, who learn to work together, who learn where to find clean water or how to purify it themselves. Who learn. Period.
It’s the kind of scenario I often ponder. Not because I don’t like humanity, but because I think we have become so complacent. We, as a species, seem to think we can do anything and everything, without repercussions. We rape and plunder the land, have little to no thought for sustainability, have a serious lack of respect for the earth we live off and the air we breathe, couldn’t give to cents for the safety of others. Nature has a way of demanding our respect; the above scenario is less unlikely than you might think.
What would happen if we found ourselves in such a situation? No one knows. But, one thing is for sure: if we didn’t work towards a common goal, life would be extremely difficult.
That I’m not the only one who thinks about some such things is proven with The First Twenty, by Jennifer Lavoie. In this story, twenty years have passed since major global catastrophes wiped out most of humankind. Survivors are in two camps: Scavengers and Settlers. Settlers live as communities in reclaimed buildings and farms where they work together to create a better life for all. From farming to searching for water to safety; they rely on each other and so find time to both work and play. Scavengers, however, live a nomadic lifestyle; relying on finding what they need or stealing and killing to stay alive. They, too, live in groups. Life alone is nowhere near safe. But play is impossible.
Peyton, born two years after ‘Before’, loses her adopted father after Scavengers raid the mill their community of a hundred people have made a home in. Days after the attack, a second group of Scavengers gain entry to the mill but this time one of them gets caught.
Nixie, a Scavenger and born with the gift of being able to use her body as a dowsing rod, fears she will be killed. After all, everyone knows Settlers aren’t to be trusted; they keep everything to themselves, instead of sharing their wealth with the Scavengers. But, if they were to find out what she can do they will simply use her as a tool, making sure she never gets away from them.
What neither young woman has counted on is falling for their supposed enemy. But how is love to survive when their respective communities expect the opposite from each of them?
This story isn’t focused on what happened to get to the point where the world crumpled. Let’s face it; survival has to come before accurate record keeping. It also doesn’t focus on two girls falling in love. In light of staying alive, who loves who is simply not important enough. This means Peyton and Nixie have the chance to develop as characters, at the same rate as the rest of the cast. Ms Lavoie has an adept hand at creating a new world out of the remains and the area this story is set in, keeping in mind all travel has to be done on foot, is well-worked through and keeps you entertained through a plot line that is purely character driven. Sadness, angst, joy, anger, but most of all plenty of hope shine through in this story. And the editing has done everything it could to make sure you can focus on what is, in all honesty, a refreshing take on a dystopian future.
Although some might find the characters a bit ‘lacking’ or the story not fast-paced enough, I thoroughly enjoyed The First Twenty and I give it 4 stars out of 5.
Humanity was nearly wiped out when a series of global disasters struck, but pockets of survivors have managed to thrive and are starting to rebuild society. Peyton lives with others in what used to be a factory. When her adopted father is murdered by Scavengers, she is determined to bring justice to those who took him away from her. She didn’t count on meeting Nixie.
Nixie is one of the few people born with the ability to dowse for water with her body. In a world where safe water is hard to come by, she’s a valuable tool to her people. When she’s taken by Peyton, they’ll do anything to get her back. As the tension between the groups reaches critical max, Peyton is forced to make a decision: give up the girl she’s learned to love, or risk the lives of those she’s responsible for.
Jennifer Lavoie lives in Connecticut in the same city she grew up in. While growing up, she always wanted to be a writer or a teacher and briefly debated a career in marine biology. The only problem with that was she’s deathly afraid of deep water. Starting during a holiday season as temporary help, she worked in a bookstore for six years and made it all the way up to assistant manager before she left to take a job teaching. Jennifer has her bachelor’s degree in secondary English education and found a job in her town teaching middle school students. Along with another teacher and a handful of students, Jennifer started the first Gay-Straight Alliance at the school. She is also active in other student clubs and enjoys pairing students with books that make them love to read.