Review: “The Young World” by Chris Weitz


The Young World by Chris Weitz. Little, Brown and Company. 373 pages.

I’ve learned–and I’ve tried to teach my students–that there are significant differences between writing movie scripts and writing books. One might think that if you’re good at writing one, you’ll probably be good at writing the other as well. It’s not necessarily the case. In a lot of ways, they’re like apples and oranges. I’ve written at least 25 books by now, and I’ve tried my hand at writing movie scripts, only to discover that it’s not that easy.

It’s not only that you have to show everything in the script–you can’t have internal dialogue, for example. It’s a whole different way of thinking and presenting. And so when I realized that The Young World was written by Chris Weitz, the Oscar-nominated scriptwriter who wrote American Pie, The Golden Compass, About a Boy and The Twilight Saga: New Moon, I hesitated. I knew that apples weren’t necessarily oranges.

Here’s the story summary from Amazon:

Welcome to New York, a city ruled by teens.

After a mysterious Sickness wipes out the rest of the population, the young survivors assemble into tightly run tribes. Jefferson, the reluctant leader of the Washington Square tribe, and Donna, the girl he’s secretly in love with, have carved out a precarious existence among the chaos.
But when a fellow tribe member discovers a clue that may hold the cure for the Sickness, five teens set out on a life-altering road trip, exchanging gunfire with enemy gangs, escaping cults and militias, braving the wilds of the subway–all in order to save humankind.
The book is full of action sequences, something that you would expect from both a YA book and a person who writes YA movies. But there are major plot holes, gaps in logic and major suspensions of disbelief that you have to also go through in the process of following along. The premise is that a disease is created that kills off all little kids and all adults over the age of 18. And as soon as you are 18, you get the disease and die too. Suddenly, one of the teens in the story learns of a scholarly article in the New York Public Library that will be the key to curing the disease. Wait: why didn’t scientists and academics find this article when they were searching for a cure?
There is also a love story that turns into a love triangle that is pretty predictable for a YA book, but I won’t go into it. This is the first in a trilogy, but I don’t think I will be picking up the other two books in the series. The biggest thing that turned me off, I think, was the abrupt ending. It was almost a Deus ex machina moment, with the sudden arrival of unexpected forces with no foreshadowing or explanation. It struck me like the author suddenly discovered that his book was getting too long and he had to end it somehow, so he threw a resolution in.
All in all, the book was fun, but meh, I think Chris Weitz should stick to films.
I give it two stars out of five.
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