I was originally drawn to this book due to the synopsis – it sounded a lot like the kind of book I’d absolutely love (kind of a dystopian/contemporary combo, with some realistic elements thrown in that kind of remind me of books like Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider). So I was so thrilled when I got the chance to read it.
Truthfully, this was a sad story. I think it was supposed to be a story of hope, but to be completely honest, I didn’t really think of it that way. Sure, the main character, Noah, had a sense of humor about the (absolutely terrible) situation he and his friends were in, and the characters were pretty well written and interesting to read about, but the entire book just made me feel like all the hope in the world had been sucked out of it and it was just a big ball of despair. Maybe that’s a little dramatic in some cases, but man, this book was powerful and haunting, and really, really depressing.
Okay, I’m finished with my rant about how depressing this book is, so let’s talk about the plot, shall we?
Away We Go takes place in Westing, a school for kids and teenagers diagnosed with PPV, also known as Peter Pan Virus. It is a horrible virus that usually affects you once you’ve been diagnosed, and it’s usually fatal. Once diagnosed, you go to a special school (in this instance, Westing), full of other kids who have been diagnosed as well, in order to try and prevent the virus from spreading in the public. Once you’re in one of these schools, you no longer get to see your family or friends, and you are essentially cut off from the world. The kids who live here and attend these schools are pretty much handed a death sentence – most of them die shortly after arrival.
So our main character, Noah, his girlfriend Alice, and his best friend Marty do the only thing they can, while they can – they live their lives. They drink, make out with each other (and other things), and try to spend as much time as they can with each other while they can.
Shortly after Noah is sent to Westing, he meets Zach. While he is hesitant to have any feelings for Zach (because he misses his boyfriend from his old school), he can’t help himself. Zach sends mixed signals to Noah, but Noah can’t help what he feels, and a good portion of the book is about Noah’s feelings for him. Yes, Noah has a girlfriend, but that’s not really where his heart lies – he more or less stays with her because they know they’re going to end up dying at some point, and he wants to make her happy.
A lot of the book is centered around awaywego.com – a website that is set up for students who are diagnosed with PPV – there are movies, books, social media, video games, etc. established to help them pass the time. I thought this aspect of the book was pretty neat, honestly…it was unique and catered specifically for this book, and a nice addition.
However, as their health declines and their spirits start to drop, they start to wonder – where are the really sick kids taken? Where do they go when their health gets so bad that they can no longer stay at Westing? Is it really a recovery center they go to, or something a lot worse than the “incontinence support” centers that the brochures talk about?
Away We Go has a pretty memorable cast of characters, among them being Noah and Zach, who spend the entire book trying to figure out how they feel about one another. I have to admit that I really liked this aspect of the book – I thought they made an interesting couple (even though Zach wasn’t sure what he was looking for or how he really thought of Noah), and I would have liked to see even more of them together in the book. Noah’s character seemed all kinds of confused (but then again, he was pretty much handed a ticket to a terminal illness, so who wouldn’t be?), and he spent a lot of his time doing a lot of drinking (where these kids got such vast amounts of alcohol just baffles me) and hooking up with random guys that he doesn’t really know, because he has a desire to feel something instead of thinking about what his future might or might not hold.
The book is also broken up into different parts, such as present day and the past, back when he first came to Westing and met Zach. This got a little confusing at times, but nothing that made the story difficult to enjoy.
While not a very chipper read, it definitely is powerful and makes you appreciate life and all the little things. While I knew going into it it was going to be one of those books that would probably end up making me sad for a while after I read it, I’m really glad I picked it up anyway.
If you like books like The Fault in Our Stars and Extraordinary Means, I have to recommend you check this one out, too!