I won an ARC of The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold from BookishFirst, so thank you BookishFirst and Penguin Teen for sending me a copy! I was pulled in by the premise and the first few chapters and wow, this book only gets better from there! I absolutely loved this story and once I got halfway through I physically could not put this book down.
I received a copy of this book for review. This has not impacted my thoughts or feelings and all opinions are my own.
The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold
Published: February 9, 2021
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Dystopian
When a deadly Fly Flu sweeps the globe, it leaves a shell of the world that once was. Among the survivors are eighteen-year-old Nico and her dog, on a voyage devised by Nico’s father to find a mythical portal; a young artist named Kit, raised in an old abandoned cinema; and the enigmatic Deliverer, who lives Life after Life in an attempt to put the world back together. As swarms of infected Flies roam the earth, these few survivors navigate the woods of post-apocalyptic New England, meeting others along the way, each on their own quest to find life and light in a world gone dark. The Electric Kingdom is a sweeping exploration of love, art, storytelling, eternal life, and above all, a testament to the notion that even in an exterminated world, one person might find beauty in another.
Heading into this book, we get to see the world as it ends. From two POVs, Nico and Kit, we see how the world has changed (taking place about 25 years in the future) after deadly man-eating Flies have taken over the world with a Fly-Flu taking out the remaining survivors. As we follow these teenagers on their journey to safety, we experience love, loss, and all the in-betweens. This book is so gorgeously written that even while I was dying to know what happens to our main characters, I’m so absorbed in the writing I keep having to reread what I just read. It’s so hard to focus on the plot when the writing is so freaking beautiful.
In terms of plot, I thought this was so well thought out. We alternate between two POVs, with the occasional third POV thrown in. Kit, a twelve year old art genius, is such a delight to read about. I loved getting into his head and seeing what he’s thinking on the daily. It made me so happy when he talked about art and books, especially since his voice makes him seem so much older than he actually is.
Meanwhile, we have Nico, who’s following her father’s instructions in hopes she can find safety after her father grows sick. Throughout this journey, Kit and Nico make friends, lose some, and dive into theoretical thinking that makes me dizzy to think about. The Flies themselves are absolutely terrifying as they devour any living thing in their path. Plus, if the Flies don’t kill you, the Flu that is floating around could kill you off slowly and painfully. All in all, it’s a horrible world to live in. Plus, there’s the dangers of other people around who are also just trying to survive.
Even with all the sadness, death, and terror surrounding this book, I loved getting to see the appreciation for life. Kit loves art and while he’s basically an encyclopedia, he is so observant of the people around him. And while Nico is also observant, she thinks about life in terms of herself rather than those around her. Each time we switch POVs, I feel like I learned more about myself and what I find important. It’s also crazy to think that in this timeline, I would be the parent to these kids/teenagers during this time. Though I hope this book never comes to fruition because I would probably die immediately.
One of my favorite elements of this book though is the theoretical conversations regarding time travel, living multiple lives, and other sciency stuff that I will probably butcher. We find Kit and Nico both have a feeling of “I’ve seen this/been here before” and it’s so interesting to see the layers of this book build on top of each other. By the end, I was in tears at how this delicate balance between time and space came together so perfectly. It was the ending that solidified this book being a 5 star read for me honestly.
If you’re looking for a dystopian novel that discusses life and death, love, loss, and all the beautiful inbetweens, you definitely need to pick up this book! I have a feeling I’m going to be grabbing his other books to read now, because I’m obsessed.
If this book sounds interesting, be sure to check out David’s other novels, like Mosquitoland or, feel free to check out H2O by Virginia Bergin.