Twelve-year-old Kester Jaynes is locked up in a “school” for troubled children that is more like a jail with solitary lock-up and nothing but goop to eat. He’s been there for six years, living in drudgery, until one night when a flock of pigeons and a gathering of cockroaches insist he break out to save the last bit of wild. These creatures are the first Kester has encountered in years, since it seemed all the animals on Earth had died of the Red-Eye virus. They’re certainly the first he has communicated with. Kester can’t speak, but as he has just discovered, he can speak telepathically with critters.

The pigeons were sent to bring Kester to a place where, hidden from everything, animals somehow survive. The head of the group, the Wildness, needs Kester’s help; there has to be a cure, a dream told him so.

Bigger than even the virus, there is a darkness controlled by a corporation. All of the world’s crops have been torn out, all of the farm animals are gone, and all that is left to eat is a formula produced by Facto, the company in charge of everything.

This dystopian world is full of adventure for Kester, who meets a girl who guards her cat with a gun, rides on the back of a magnificent stag and faces the threat of danger in every chapter. Kester is a likable character, full of longing, self-doubt and, eventually, inner growth. Readers will root for him to face his challenges and to make a difference in the world.

Author Piers Torday reveals through the eyes of animals just how cruel humans are to the wild. Reminiscent of Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984, this tale is not light-hearted, but it has heart-touching moments, plenty of action, a powerful story and a white pigeon of whimsy.

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