Intellectual boys' boarding school story meets near-future dystopia in this end-times tale.
Like the other 600,000 American children and teenagers with Peter Pan Virus, Noah attends a school—of sorts. The "recovery centers" are a cross between internment camps and underfunded classrooms. They're badly misnamed, as well, as nearly all PPV sufferers die in adolescence. Blocked from phone calls, the Internet, and outside contact, Noah finds solace in banter and existential despair, hiding in the toilet stall–turned-library that's the best his recovery center offers. When he transfers to Westing, the sole prep school for PPV kids, Noah finds an idyllic New England haven where students read Whitman while seeking their inner Michelangelo or Sappho. The students, however, are just the same as everywhere else: dying teenagers. Noah nurses his alcoholism tenderly while exchanging droll repartee with the object of his affection. No, not with his girlfriend, Alice, but with Zach, the extremely ill and, predictably, straight boy with whom Noah's enjoyed several tender hookups. Meanwhile, a meteor’s headed for Earth. Thin worldbuilding and confusing time shifts detract only slightly; the imminent apocalypse serves primarily to accelerate the claustrophobic immediacy of boarding school angst. Noah and his friends form loving, believably complex relationships, caroming from suicidal ideation to conspiracy theory to a quest for the sacred in mundane death.
Lovers of self-consciously witty nihilist profundities will be thrilled; alas that the snark is mired in the stale trope of tragic gay romance. (Dystopia. 14-17)