Middle Grade Reviews

Review: Endling – The Last by Katherine Applegate

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Extract: 

And then I saw them.

All of them.

My mother.

My father. 

My siblings.

They were piled on the ground like discarded hides, blood pouring, white and pearly, soaking the leaves, eyes glassy and open, mouths open. Torn and stabbed.

They lay in a mound, as if they’d been too late to scatter, my parents on top, protecting as always. 

I ran. 

(Endling – The Last by Katherine Applegate. P45.) 

birdbreakSynopsis:

Humans are not the only intelligent species. Byx is a Dairne – one of the governing species. Dairne have been hunted for generations. When her pack is killed, Byx is forced to confront the possibility that she may be the last Dairne alive.

Joined by Tobble the wobbyk, and a girl who disguises herself as a boy, Byx sets off in search of the legendary haven which is said to protect and home other Dairne. As new friends and allies join her, she confronts a secret which may threaten every other creature in the world.

The first book in a new trilogy.

birdbreakReview:

An extraordinary middle-grade adventure which explores the way humans treat other animals. Set in a world which humans govern alongside other intelligent species, Katherine Applegate shows how the human urge to dominate leads to death and destruction.

Not all humans in the story are bad – some, like Khara, seek only to survive under the rule of the Murdano. Khara’s storyline explores gender roles and gender stereotyping. She disguises herself as a boy so she can use her gift for tracking in order to survive and send money home to her family.

The book is not solely about extinction – at its heart is the last remaining member of a species, trying to figure out what it means to be something which almost doesn’t exist. Anybody who remembers the news stories about Lonesome George – the last-known Pinta Island tortoise – will remember how he became a figurehead for the damage wrought by humans.

None of the characters are perfect – Khara initially holds Byx captive, and Byx herself has eaten Wobbyk. This makes the story feel more realistic and the themes more pressing -this is not about poor, innocent animals and nasty humans. It is about the difference between taking to survive and taking through greed and power.

Katherine Applegate writes the perfect scene – short and concise, giving the reader a little more information every time.

A wonderful addition to the canon of children’s books our place in the natural world. Empathising with Byx will make it easier for readers to empathise with other animals. This is an ambitious world but the fact that totally fictional species are made so believable is an achievement. I look forward to continuing the trilogy.

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