Knocked unconscious and kidnapped, 16-year-old Linus wakes alone in a small, windowless, concrete building.
The only way in or out is a lift that comes, empty, twice a day. With no food and no contact with his captor, Linus begins a journal. On the third day, a 9-year-old girl named Jenny appears, and food is finally delivered. Over several days, four more captives arrive, all adults, including a big, burly junkie, an uptight young businesswoman and a middle-aged businessman. Last to arrive is Russell, a famous philosopher who’s dying of a brain tumor. In a setting reminiscent of Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, this suspenseful, riveting winner of the 2014 Carnegie Medal explores existentialism through the different stages of life embodied by the six characters. Jenny wonders what they’re being punished for and why their captor is so bad. Linus wonders why they are there and what their captor wants. He notices that the clocks are being manipulated and ponders what past, present and future mean when you’re captive and dependent on an all-powerful “Man Upstairs” for life’s essentials. Wise Russell, the only character of color, calmly works out where they must be and helps the others see the humanity in themselves and each other. Brooks’ latest is not an easy novel, but it’s one that begs for rereading to suss the intricacies of its construction of plot, character development and insight into the human condition.
Not for everyone, this heady novel is worthy of study alongside existentialist works of the 20th century. (Fiction. 14 & up)