The Promise by Jennifer Macaire

The Promise by Jennifer Macaire
Publisher: Double Dragon
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (194 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A meteorite crashes to earth and a strange virus kills all the adults in the world. What would you do? Ryan and his brother travel south, stopping in towns on the way, searching for survivors, determined to save mankind. They’ve made a promise – never give up – never say die, and always help anyone they can find, even when those children seem to have reverted back to savages.

If Ryan wants to survive, he’s going to have to grow up quickly and think on his feet. There’s no other choice for him in a world without adults.

As soon as I read the first paragraph I couldn’t wait to find out what happens to Ryan and his friends next. Due to a large cast of characters it took me a fair amount time to get to know everyone well, but I was pleased with how the main characters change as a result of their experiences. The payoff is well worth the wait, though, and I’m glad that I stuck with them through the more plot-heavy sections of the book.

Gender stereotyping distracted me from an otherwise gripping narrative. It was difficult for me to understand why Ryan so quickly hands over the care of his baby sister, Julia, to the preteen girls in his group given how traumatized the toddler was after the death of their parents. This pattern soon repeats itself as more kids join them despite Julia showing a strong preference for her brother. Based on this reaction as well what I learned about Ryan’s value system in other scenes, it would have made far more sense for him to be his sister’s primary caregiver.

Even pacing and a plot full of twists kept me glued to the page. There are a lot of dangers awaiting Ryan and his companions, and I really enjoyed seeing their responses to all of the dangerous things that await a civilization that has just lost every single one of its adult members. It became even more interesting once I realized that most of the characters don’t have any previous experience with the new skills they need to learn to survive. How they attempt to gain this knowledge provides some of the most entertaining scenes in this book.

The writing style of this book suggests that it is meant for the 10+ age group due to how quickly certain problems are solved, but the inclusion of so much violent content bumps my recommendation up by a few years. While most of it isn’t particularly graphic, there are multiple references to abuse and non-accidental injuries that are too intense for younger readers. Some 10 and 11 year olds may be mature enough to handle those scenes, although I would definitely draw the line at giving this story out to anyone younger than that.

The Promise is an excellent introduction to post-apocalyptic fiction for young adult readers. This tale also has great crossover appeal, though, and I would recommend it to adult fans of this genre as well.

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