Title: The Smallest Thing
Author: Lisa Manterfield
Publication Date: July 18, 2017
Genre: YA Contemporary
Edition: ARC from Xpresso Book Tours
Blurb: The very last thing 17-year-old Emmott Syddall wants is to turn out like her dad. She’s descended from ten generations who never left their dull English village, and there’s no way she’s going to waste a perfectly good life that way. She’s moving to London and she swears she is never coming back.
But when the unexplained deaths of her neighbors force the government to quarantine the village, Em learns what it truly means to be trapped. Now, she must choose. Will she pursue her desire for freedom, at all costs, or do what’s best for the people she loves: her dad, her best friend Deb, and, to her surprise, the mysterious man in the HAZMAT suit?
Inspired by the historical story of the plague village of Eyam, this contemporary tale of friendship, community, and impossible love weaves the horrors of recent news headlines with the intimate details of how it feels to become an adult—and fall in love—in the midst of tragedy.
Review: This book was a very refreshing read, which I know sounds strange given the subject matter! It was nothing like what I was expecting. At all.
Okay, I’ll be honest. Zombies. I was expecting zombies. There are no zombies.
I’ll start with our main character. I identified with Em so much! She has grown up in this tiny town surrounded by these nosy neighbors and having her dad involved in everything. She wants her independence and it is completely understandable as to why. Which makes it even more frustrating when she is trapped in her town by the quarantine. This situation really tests her, especially when her boyfriend doesn’t help her like she hopes he will and she feels abandoned by both him and by her mother, who was away on holiday when all this happened.
At the same time, while Em is frustrated by this town, the book doesn’t vilify them either. This is one of those rare books that doesn’t really have an antagonist. There are the government workers who are overseeing the quarantine who could possibly be considered antagonistic, especially when Em is so determined to break their rules from time to time, but it is also clear that these are just normal people trying to do their jobs. The real villain in the story is the mysterious sickness that takes over the town.
I kept expecting some sort of government conspiracy (or zombies), but this story is much more simple than that. What this really is is a story about family, both your blood relatives and the “family” that you grow up around in your community. Em’s family has a lot of issues, some of which she discovers during the quarantine, which makes confronting and dealing with the issues even harder. Her relationship with her father is shaky, since he is so tied to this town and can’t understand why she wants to leave, but through their shared experience, they grow closer and find common ground.
That’s what this story really is about – finding common ground with people you may not understand at first. Disasters like this tend to bring out the best in people, but also bring people closer together. That’s what happens to Em and it’s really quite beautiful.
GoodReads rating: 4 stars
Categories: Books I've Read