THE LOUDNESS by Nick Courage

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Hank has always felt like a bit of an outsider.  For one thing, the bionic heart that keeps his body running means that he can’t touch another person without giving them an electric shock.  And he actually really likes Mr. Mooney, the elderly librarian who supervises the “school” where all the kids hang out during the day.  Hank’s mom has been working hard as mayor to get the Green Zone a city charter so that they can reestablish a real school, as well as many of the services and conveniences people once had before natural disasters and other troubles destroyed the country.  They may even be able to incorporate the struggling Gray Zone outside the city and help the Other Siders to a better life.  But Hank’s first trip to the Other Side opens his eyes to an amazing new world of music, art and community that he isn’t sure needs saving.  And when the hostile Federales threaten to destroy life in both the Zone and the Other Side, Hank is determined to do whatever it takes to save them both.    

There is a lot going on in this post-apocalyptic coming-of-age novel. The first half of the book focuses largely on Hank’s growth and relationships before shifting to more of a dystopian adventure story.  For this reason it may not grab all dystopia readers, who may be expecting instant action.  But for those middle grade readers who enjoy character-driven adventures, it is definitely worth a read!

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