Review: The Only Ones by Aaron Starmer

Title: The Only Ones
Author: Aaron Starmer
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Year Published: 2011
Fiction/Non- Fiction: Fiction
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Juvenile Fiction
Why Picked: I know the author’s sister and she let me borrow her ARC.
Number of Pages: 336


Like the other children who have journeyed to the village of Xibalba, Martin Maple faces an awful truth. He was forgotten. When everyone else in the world disappeared one afternoon, these children were the only ones left behind. There’s Darla, who drives a monster truck; Felix, who used string and wood to rebuild the internet; Lane, who crafts elaborate contraptions for live entertainment; and nearly forty others, each equally brilliant and peculiar.
Inspired by the prophecies of a mysterious boy who talks to animals, Martin believes he can reunite them all with their loved ones. But believing and knowing are two different things, as he soon discovers with the push of a button, the flip of a switch, the turn of a dial…
A whimsical apocalyptic fable that carries readers to a future world without adults, a journey filled with dark humor that every reader will want to take.

Note I read this because it was written by the brother of  a very good friend of mine.  That in mind, I am going to try and be as unbiased as possible.  There were many parts of this book I loved.  I loved the strange and unique relationship that Martin has with his father.  I also loved that it is not the “underlying root of all of Martin’s issues.”  It was nice to see that a relationship which is non-traditional, quirky, and at times very strange does not have to be the root of evil in a story.  I also liked that Martin’s early driving force is his need for books.  It is only later as he experiences Xibalba and its inhabitants that people and their relationships become interesting and important to him. One of the most important things I loved about this book, it that it is not a take on the Star Trek: TOS episode, “Miri” or Lord of the Flies. These kid are trying really hard to make something of Xibalba, they are working together, for the most part. The end of the world doesn’t make children into monsters but it does make them into adults with both good and bad sides.
I also liked many of the supporting characters; Darla, Felix, Kelvin, George.  But this leads to one of the major criticisms I have of the book.  Each of these characters is a cardboard cutout.  Granted a fascinating cutout but one dimensional nevertheless.   I kept wanted to look behind and find out more about them.  Darla is generally a brat, but she likes Martin; enough to manipulate a situation into a date. Why is she like that?  Felix’s need for the internet is one of my favorite parts.  Wood and string recreate pages and hyperlinks but how did he get there. Perhaps in populating his book with kids who are “brilliant and peculiar” Starmer created his one weak point.  I need to understand them to understand why and how they ended up in XiBalba and how they discovered their one skill.
This criticism does not take away from the fact that, unlike so many YA books now, there is an ending to The Only Ones. I hope he will write more about these characters but it is not necessary.  The machine, so integral to the story that it is almost a character unto itself, is explained.  Not in broad generalizations, but in enough details that you are left satisfied. Its purpose and Martin’s use of it is wonderful and unexpected.
On a final note, this book is one of the very few that I think I might have liked better as an audio book. However, that could be because I watched the trailer (below) before reading the book and throughout my reading of it all I could hear was Aaron Starmer’s voice.