I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you!
I really wanted to like this book, as it features a lot of things I like to read about, post-apocalyptic setting, New York, viruses. I had to admit I didn't know who Artful Dodger was, because I've never read or properly watched Oliver Twist (my bad, I know). Dodger is in this novel indeed the head-thief and little Twist is his partner in crime.
Together they form the Gutter Punks, Robin Hood-like stealing medicine from the rich for the rest of the world. The world as we knew it has gone to the dogs, that's for sure. New York is in terrible shape (and this in only ten years and without any real war). The boroughs are everything but friendly to each other, and Dodger and Twist are 'just trying to survive' in these harsh conditions.
Only, the true horror is the book. The world building doesn't make any sense. The world is supposedly destroyed by a virus that killed half the population, leaving the rest as carriers, having only one symptom: a minor form of light allergy. Which isn't nice, but enough to destroy civilization? There are medicines against this terrible disease (I kept thinking: is this medicine Vitamin D perhaps?) however they are so expensive only the rich (for some reason called Tower Babies) can afford them. The rich, with there medicine, have taken refuge in large building like the Empire State Building and never leave the place.
The New York inhabitants believe there is a quarantine to keep them save from the rest of the world. The rest of the world however supplies them the Towers (and thus the rich) with supplies in big Zeppelins. Which makes me wonder? Why do they believe there's nothing out there, if they have better supplies than the people in the city? It just doesn't make sense.
To keep you from these questions, there are a lot of different gangs in Manhattan, like the no-rules one, one that features children who've gone Lord Of The Flies-like berserk in the Jungle (that was once Central Park), the religious sect gang, and one that seems to consist mainly out of hippies. There are also cannibals and you sometimes wonder if you're in Imperial Rome or perhaps Meereen as fights to the death in arenas are considered a civilized form of entertainment.
And in this setting we find our characters. From the first person POV of Twist, a seventeen-year-old boy who's suffering from sidekick-syndrome and is ruled by his hormones. Seriously, there isn't a single female character over the age of ten, he doesn't want to have sex with. Now that I think about it, there are only three female characters in the book. They are all bitchy and manipulative, crazy, or we get to know so little about them we can't decide in which category to put her. None of them has any depth.
What also bothered me is the following, Twist was seven when the virus struck and the world turned into this state. He however knows The Walking Dead enough to reference to it (some bad parenting?). I'm also to believe that a seven-year-old boy is interested in Titanic? (But has no memories whatsoever to news about the virus when it struck). The same with the other characters, they should remember things, but they don't. It's only been ten years! Ten heavy years, I will not deny it, but they sometimes act as if this situations been going on for centuries, which is just not right...
I was already fairly disappointed with this book, my expectations were so high, but what really did it in the end for me: the confused the flu and the common cold, which in my biomedical eyes, really is an unforgivable crime... Would not recommend.