Book Review: Rootless

Rootless, by Chris HowardRootless by Chris Howard. November 2012. 9780545387897. Gr 9-12.

Rootless is one of the most imaginative and ambitious books I have read all year.  It is the story of Banyan, a nomadic teen who, with his father, builds “trees” out of scrap metal and LED lights.  The book is set in the distant future, and the reason for the demand for artificial trees is that real trees no longer exist.  The people that eke out a difficult existence in this nature-less world yearn for a reminder of the beauty that trees once provided.

The world that Chris Howard has constructed within this novel is amazing.  He does a wonderful job of describing the grim, lonely vastness that the world has become.  You can almost feel the dust in your mouth as Banyan makes his way across the desolate landscape, moving from place to place to build his trees.

The world has changed in other frightening ways as well…the only food source is provided by the sole plant life left on Earth, genetically modified corn.  This food is exclusively controlled by an evil and mysterious corporation, GenTech, which will go to any length to maintain its monopoly on food, and therefore humankind.  On top of all of this, one of the reasons that the corn has been genetically modified is locusts.  These aren’t your run-of-the mill pesky locusts, though.  They have evolved into flesh-eating creatures capable of swarming and devouring a person in seconds! (How cool and imaginative is that?!?)

OK, so at this point, I can imagine you thinking, “How much bleaker can this book be?”  Luckily, Banyan provides the hope in Rootless, as he believes that there is a better life for himself somewhere.  His quest is sparked by the disappearance of his father, and a photograph he finds of his dad chained to a tree…a REAL tree. Banyan encounters pirates, slave-masters, and corporate agents; he allies himself with various people along the way in search of his father, and of the trees that could change the world. As if that isn’t enough, there is a nice, sweet romance that dims the bleakness a bit.

Rootless is a real page-turner.  There are numerous plot twists, as Banyan has to decide who to trust, and who cannot be trusted.  This is the first book in a series, and the ending is quite the cliffhanger.  I can’t wait to see what Chris Howard comes up with next for Banyan.  Rootless comes out today, and I recommend that you get a copy and prepare yourself for a thrilling ride!

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