Arctic Zoo
Book Reviews,  Young adults

Arctic Zoo, by Robert Muchamore {Young Adult Book Review}

I’ve been soooo slow on the reading front! At the beginning of the year I was blazing through books, but as my family and I get settled into 2020 and all of life’s demands, I’ve definitely had less time to read. I thought I’d pick up Arctic Zoo recently, because I thought it would be a quicker read for me, but alas, even a shorter book seems to have taken me 2 weeks to read! This is a book from the ‘Young Adults’ shelf, and even though I am far from young…I do like to dabble in YA occasionally.

What is Arctic Zoo about?

From London . . .
Georgia gets straight As at school, writes essays for fun, has been placed first in twenty-six drone races and has a serious addiction to buying Japanese stationery. She plans to follow her older sister Sophie and become a doctor, but her worldview is shattered when Sophie commits suicide.

To Lagos . . .
Julius lives in Ondo, a Nigerian state where half the population lives on less than a dollar a day. But he isn’t one of them. His uncle has been governor of Ondo for more than a decade and his mother is the power behind that throne. He finds refuge in a derelict zoo with best friend Duke, but as the two of them grow close, the world outside becomes more and more hostile.

Following two teenagers living very different lives, ARCTIC ZOO is a startling contemporary novel about protest, sexuality, mental heath and flawed leadership, from the bestselling author of CHERUB. Arctic Zoo

My Review

Storyline and the Characters

The story starts with us meeting Georgia and Julius, who are both in some sort of mental health facility. We then go back in time to follow the sequence of events that lead to them being in this facility.

Georgia is an intelligent girl who is seemingly the perfect daughter. Very mature and level-headed, but a huge life event sees her questioning her life and her choices. We also meet Julius, a priviledged kid, who hails from Nigeria. He is dealing with issues around his identity and sexuality, in an environment where this ‘lifestyle’ is not tolerated or condoned. This sets the scene for this contemporary novel……

Georgia’s parents feature in the book, as well as Julius’s Mother, brothers and his friend, Duke.

My thoughts

From the synopsis, I really had no idea what to expect going in. Once I read the opening letter from the author, detailing his battle with depression, and what inspired this book, I felt like I really needed to read it though. As a mother I needed to know, what gets a kid committed to a mental facility? Are these issues that will help me better parent my own children?

Georgia and Julius’ situations and their lives make for compelling reading. Georgia is suffering a major loss and her parents needed to perhaps be more present for her. She goes very quickly from ‘the perfect daughter’ to this poster girl for a cause. I felt this part of the character development was lacking with Georgia. She was never really for the cause…not with her whole heart anyways. BUT to me, it shows that with different influences, kids can find themselves on a path they never would have chosen themselves. I don’t say it’s a peer pressure sort of moment, but just how vulnerable our kids are.

Julius‘ story is a lot more complex. One would assume with a silver spoon in his mouth, he’d live a wonderful life in Nigeria. Not the case when you’re a boy struggling with your sexuality. My heart ached for his character, being so young, and treated so badly.

I’ve been to West Africa in my teens, many moons ago. A few weeks after I left there was a huge bombing! Due to this, I was able to imagine some of what was described so realistically in this book.

Some critique?

I did notice quite a few typos in the book….quite a few! Also, there’s an under age sex scene that had me feeling a bit uncomfortable. There was only one scene and it was not a violent or very graphic scene, but I do want to mention that.

At times, this did feel like 2 books and that the author could have written 2 stories dedicated to each character. Eventually their stories do collide, but not in the way I perhaps expected. When their stories do collide, I feel that portion is a bit rushed, so I’m questioning the authenticity of it. They don’t get much screen time together if I can put it that way? I can’t say much more though, because I don’t want to ruin it for anybody.

My rating

Arctic Zoo has a Goodreads rating of 4.03 stars out of 5. I’m going to rate this one at a solid 3.5 stars. Arctic Zoo touches on some really important issues, and a view into issues some of us never ever have to even think about. Those issues are a reality for so many though…. So as a mother and a human being, I definitely don’t regret reading Arctic Zoo, it was a thought provoking read indeed.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by Jonathan Ball Publishers, in exchange for an honest review.

Arctic Zoo

I’m Simone, a mom of 3, a wife...obsessed with my family, makeup and books!

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