The Forbidden Flats is the second book in Peggy Eddleman's Sky Jumpers series (my review of Book 1 is here). Both books are set in a relatively near-term post-apocalyptic American West. One of the oldest adults remembers the pre-apocalyptic world, but most characters were born afterwards. Only small, spread out communities survive, with no means of communication between them.
The Forbidden Flats begins with an earthquake, which sets off a reaction that threatens the survival of the sheltered town of White Flats. A small team is sent on a mission to procure a mineral that will, if obtained in time, fix the problem (and save the town). The mineral is only available from a far-off settlement in the mountains. Among the members of the team are Hope, the 12-year-old heroine from the first Sky Jumpers book, and her two friends, Aaren and Brock. This high-stakes quest, particularly because there is a firm time constraint before disaster occurs, lends suspense to the book.
Once nice thing about this second book in the series is that Hope (and thus the reader) gets a chance to see much more of the world than in the relatively sheltered first book. I always enjoy it when, in post-apocalyptic books, characters run across artifacts from modern day life. In The Forbidden Flats, Hope and the team visit people who live in the ruins of pre-apocalyptic cities. Hope sees things like asphalt for the first time in her life.
Eddleman's world-building for this series remains sharp - she has a strong grasp of what is the same and what is different from our own world. What comes across in particular detail in this new book is the impact of the apocalypse (environmental bombs) on the minerals in the earth. There are minerals newly created by the blasts, and other things that used to work that don't anymore. In particular, iron can no longer hold a magnetic charge, which greatly restricts and resumption of technology. This makes for an intriguing sub-quest in the book, one that I expect will be continued in future stories.
The Forbidden Flats also fleshes out the character of Hope in more detail. She meets her uncle, the brother of the mother who died immediately after Hope's birth. Learning more about her mother, and getting to know her uncle, gives Hope some insights into her own character. There are a couple of other interesting new characters, too, one of which I suspect we'll see again.
But I do have to say that I felt that the existing secondary characters came across as a bit flat in this installment. It felt like I was supposed to remember what was special and unique about Aaren and Brock, rather than being able to see this through their words and actions. This stood out for me in particular because there's the tiniest hint about a romance brewing between Hope and Brock, but Brock feels like a bit of cipher. My feeling is that even if a book doesn't need to stand on its own in terms of plot and world-building (it may be necessary to have read the first book to understand what's going on), the characters should stand on their own in each book.
Overall, though, The Forbidden Flats is a worthwhile successor to Sky Jumpers. The plot is suspenseful and full of twists, and readers get to learn more about the broader world in which Hope lives. Although the plot in this book is fully resolved, I see plenty of directions in which Eddleman can go in future books. Fans of the first book will definitely want to give this one a look. The Sky Jumpers series is nice in being a middle grade (vs. YA) post-apocalypse series, one that does NOT revolve around a dystopia, but instead shows people working together to build a new world.
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: September 23, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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