carbon-diaries

Image source: sacilloyd.com

Laura Brown is a London teen with typical problems: her parents are weird, her sister is a pain and her crush next door is dating the school sex bomb. Oh, and the world seems to be ending. Natural disasters and social unrest are rife in an ever-changing situation of global panic. London is subject to drastic conditions and emergency belt-tightening measures such as water and carbon rationing. What’s a kid to do? Why, play in a punk band, of course.

Saci Llyod’s The Carbon Diaries 2015 combines the often comical musings of alienated youth – think a bit more Adrian Mole than Holden Caufield – with the timely genre of the eco-disaster.

The body of the book is punctuated with text from emails, crumpled school reports, punky gig flyers and other cool graphics designed to create the mood of a not-too-bright future London. Laura is a clever, sympathetic character who, like most teens, sees herself as grounded while the rest of the world goes insane. She is concerned about the ecological and societal problems unfolding around her, but also about her family, friends, boys and of course her band: the dirty angels, a “screaming post punk X edge band,” modeled after the music and ideology of the Straight Edge movement.

Published by Hodder Children’s Books in the U.K. – and Holiday House in the U.S. – my copy shows a “Teen” stamp. Yet the Hodder website displays the book in their 9-12 year old section, rather than in their “cutting edge” BITE imprint category. But The Carbon Diaries is definitively cutting edge and absolutely a teen-oriented book, though by no means limited to that moody, taciturn segment of society. I’m 37 and I enjoyed it immensely. OK, I’m a hip, “edgy” 37 year old who knows about texting and facebook, but still. Even without my relation to the environmental movement, hardcore punk and Straight Edge scenes, I’d still appreciate this tale of individual and societal struggle in a sometimes bleak and frightening future. Though it is current and relevant in both its style and subject matter, older readers and those not familiar with the some of the cultural references in the book should not feel alienated or confused.

Saci Lloyd has written a novel which is bigger and more universal than any of the allusions she chooses to employ. It is also a very funny and far more action-packed book than I had come to expect from a tale of carbon rationing. Not that I’ve read that many. I have, however, read many dark, dystopian tales of eco-disaster and a fair share of teen diaries so I can say that Lloyd’s The Carbon Diaries: 2015 offers a fresh, up-to-date take on both genres and packs a powerful, urgent environmental message that we all – young and old(er) – need to pay significant attention to.

Other similar book recommendations (perhaps less appropriate for young readers):

Girl in landscape by Jonathan Lethem (salon.com review)

Random Acts of Senseless Violence by Jack Womack

Additional resources:

sacilloyd.com