The book: Empty by Suzanne Weyn
The plot: The year is 2022—ten years from now. Oil reserves worldwide are growing more scarce by the minute. Gas and items that require oil to be produced are becoming more and more expensive. Travelling by plane is only for the extremely wealthy. The United States has gone to war with Venezuela, who has been over-reporting the amount of oil it actually has left. Global warming has gone bezerk and caused two gigantic hurricanes to merge into one super-hurricane. And the citizens of Sage Valley are all caught in the middle of it.
Empty, a YA novel by Suzanne Weyn, tells the story of three teenagers—Tom, Gwen, and Niki—as they try to cope with life in their slowly decaying town of Sage Valley, which is located in modern-day upstate New York. Tom, whose father died years prior to the events of Empty, is a jock who is trying to capture the attention of the rich Niki Barton, whose father ends up losing his job as a result of the oil shortages. Gwen is an intelligent goth who wants to help the world become self-sustaining and win the heart of Tom—which starts an awkward love triangle, considering that many of the novel’s characters think that Hector, one of her best friends, is her boyfriend, even though Gwen has no romantic interest in him at all. Together, they learn more about themselves, and about love, pain, suffering, and the consequences of the world having frivolously overused oil for decades.
My review: When I discovered this book not too long ago, I read the back cover and found the premise of the novel to be extremely interesting. It’s a short novel that, to an extent, is intriguing and original. However, it did have its flaws. Most of my complaints involve the overlapping love triangles that appear in the book. Gwen loves Tom, who falls in love with Niki, but then starts having feelings for Gwen. Niki broke up with her boyfriend Brock, whom she still somewhat likes. Many of the characters think that Hector and Gwen are dating, when, in reality, they aren’t. Quite honestly, the love triangles were unnecessary in this book; they detracted from the main plot—the oil shortage and its effects on the world and especially Sage Valley—and were extremely clichéd.
The writing was pretty decent, but I wish that I could see what the novel would’ve been like from an alternating first-person perspective rather than from a third-person omniscient perspective. The only character I really liked was Gwen. Her side of the story was, to me, the most interesting part because it was more than just a love story; her story was about how the world could be saved if we returned to older ways of living and a more conservative lifestyle. Tom and Niki both have stories that are more romance-centric…and Niki’s character was, in my eyes, annoying. (She was bordering on the same level of annoying as Princess Elise from the 2006 video game Sonic the Hedgehog—and, believe me, any Sonic fan would agree that Elise is irritating.)
My rating: On a scale of one to ten, I would give this book a six. It’s not the best book I’ve ever read, but it definitely is a book worth reading—mostly because of its all-too-relevant warning about the world’s dependence on oil. It’s only about 200 pages, too, so it is a fast read.
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Do you think you'll check out Empty?