Review: All for Owen by Clint Stoker

“War, Repression, Famine, Plague… Pray for luck, pray for change.”All for Owen by Clint Stoker

Seventeen-year-old Jason Lowe has been able to hide from a broken world in his forgotten neighborhood. He can hide from the horrors of the man-made plague, because he’s immune. But when the creatures called Angsts discover Sunset Street, he can’t hide anymore.

The night Jason is late for watch, the Angsts, creatures clad in historical masks, bring the plague and infect his community. But Jason isn’t the one chosen to save his home. Instead, he becomes the side-kick to twelve-year-old Owen Rosner, Sunset’s least valuable resident.

Now the boys of Sunset have one shot at saving their community, to travel across the hazardous valley and trade for antidotes. But everything rests on keeping Owen Alive.

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Review

When it comes to reading, on occasion, my mind will let the story completely consume me. With the right story I am compelled to move faster, walk faster, drink faster, or in some cases I will completely stop eating in order for my brain to have a meltdown. When I have a reaction to stories like this, I believe my brain is trying to push my body faster to cope with the speed of which I’m absorbing the story.

I read the majority of All for Owen at the gym (I read when I’m on the treadmill or bike) of all places. Each time I forgot I was at the gym and found myself walking faster in order to keep up with my reading speed. I would end these gym sessions bewildered, bemused, and with a bleary-eyed stare, as my brain attempted to deal with the abrupt pull back into reality.

All for Owen grabbed my attention slowly, but hooked its claws into me by the quarter mark. I found my desire for fitness becoming secondary to why I wanted to go to the gym. I wanted to workout so I could read more and faster!

The concept of the story was absorbing and unexpected. I’ve read my fair share of dystopian stories and after reading the synopsis you have an expectation of what the story will contain. There should always be a spanner thrown into the works of your expectations though. Some stories will lack the spanner, unfortunately, but I don’t believe All for Owen is one of them.

History coming back to bite a civilisation in the arse is a commonality in dystopian stories, but I loved the way it was done in this case. The use of history and fear slowly unravelled to create tantalising ideas of what could come next.

Come the end of the story, I found myself rooting for characters, taken aback by surprises, being aghast at events befalling the characters, and having them etched clearly in my mind. The character reactions to events and to each other were very realistic and I found it very easy to imagine teens responding to such a world filled with such fear, hopelessness, and manipulation.

All for Owen doesn’t have a jarring cliffhanger, the one to make you want to respond by jumping up in agitation, which is preferable to me. Instead, the culmination of all the events in the story itself, coupled with the characters, got under my skin. This is what makes me want to continue with the story; the character growth, the care with which they’ve been created, and the world-building, rather than the story ending at a pivotal moment, is what feeds my curiosity.

I believe All for Owen is readable by teens and adults alike. While it is evident to me the story is geared towards an age demographic, nothing is dumbed down. The story may be easy to absorb, but it’s deeper meanings wrapped up in fast-paced entertainment.

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