This is a review of the book Who Will Save the Planet? by Peter McLennan. You may remember Peter from his three part series on my blog a few months back (part 1, part 2 and part 3), where he talked us through the self-publishing process. Well, I’ve agreed to review his debut novel, and let me say it’s a fine read.
The story centres around Jason Saunders, a fourteen year old boy from small-town Australia. Still smarting from losing the school debate on whether global warming is indeed an issue that needs to be dealt with, Jason goes to his local beach for some me-time, sees a man floundering in the water and swims out to rescue him. The man turns out to be the Australian Prime Minister, who in front of a bunch of media tells Jason he can have anything he wants. The answer? Emission control targets, which is topical not only because of the school debate, but also due to an upcoming global meeting on climate change.
It’s a well-written and engaging story, told not just through Jason’s eyes but also through the prism of Cabinet meetings and, well, let’s call it “secret leaders’ business”. The Government – which by the way could be either of Australia’s major political parties, as it’s not specified which one they are – isn’t necessarily sold on the idea of emission control targets, and wonder if it’s possible to make Jason change his request. After all, with the promise of whatever he wanted caught by the television cameras, they’re in a bit of a hard place politically.
The ups and downs of politics, the personal charm of the leader and the stubbornness – or otherwise – of a fourteen year old boy caught in the middle makes for an engrossing story. Engagingly written, I found myself unwilling to put it down, even when I had to.
That said, of course, I’m not saying that the book is without faults. Early in the book a girl in Jason’s class called Emma makes a few appearances, and it’s implied that Jason has a bit of a thing for her. This would generally make one think that she would have a role later in the story, but past the first few chapters she doesn’t show up again. To me that feels like a loose end – why include her if she’s not going to have a role?
The other thing that bothered me was Jason’s desire for a large, petrol-guzzling SUV. Sure, I can see a fourteen year old eyeing off something like that, and encouraging his father to buy one, but for a boy who staunchly claims over and over that “if it’s bad for the environment I don’t want it”, it does seem an odd preference. Maybe if he planned to convert it to run on used vegetable oil from the local fish and chip shop that would make more sense, but if he did it’s not mentioned in the narrative.
Overall, though, it’s an entertaining story for a young adult audience. Those from outside Australia might find some of the politics confusing, but then again it’s explained pretty well in the text (the PM does have to make sure Jason knows how the system works) so that shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Sure, if you’re one of the climate change skeptics you might take issue with Jason and his convictions, but then again I wouldn’t expect a climate change skeptic to pick up a book called Who Will Save the Planet? anyway. Assuming, though, that you’re not turned off by a few paragraphs of political explanation and a theme around fighting global warming, I would say it’s well worth a read.
Who Will Save the Planet? by Peter McLennan
200 pages (paperback)
Published by Peter McLennan
Available on Amazon.com as e-book and paperback.