Echo Boy

Publisher: Bodley Head Children's Books

Review

Audrey inhabits a future world in which technology has changed everything. High speed transport means that she can pop over to the Louvre to see her favourite paintings in a matter of minutes; her grandmother lives on the moon and her mother attends meetings in Japan and New New York in a morning; lessons take place in an 'immersion pod'; and families are served by Echoes - flesh and blood cyborgs who are programmed to unquestioningly obey orders from their owners.

But Audrey's father is suspicious of these developments: a confirmed technophobe, he writes and speaks out about the dangers that Echoes and other new technologies pose, in spite of the fact that his brother Alex Castle owns one of the biggest tech companies in the world. It's he who encourages Audrey to surround herself with music, art, books, philosophy and dreams.

Audrey's father's anxieties prove only too well-founded when he and her mother are suddenly and horrifyingly murdered by their Echo, Alissa. Taking refuge at her Uncle Alex's house, Audrey struggles to process what has happened to her - and then she encounters Daniel, her Uncle's strange new Echo. At first she is frightened by him, but she soon realises he is not like the other Echoes - he can feel pain, he can fear and he can love. Meanwhile, Daniel feels a profound connection to Audrey that he cannot explain - and when she finds herself in terrible danger, he is determined to save her, whatever the cost.

Matt Haig's first young adult novel is a thrilling science-fiction roller-coaster ride. The combination of romance and dystopia may be a familiar concept for young adult fiction, but Haig gives it his own distinctive spin, bringing freshness and a huge amount of imagination to this well-trodden territory. Dealing with some similar themes to Haig's recent adult novel, The Humans, Echo Boy will keep young readers on the edge of their seats - but will also leave them with questions and philosophical problems to ponder.

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