'The Blue Book of Nebo' is a truly exceptional work of fiction, well-deserving of its Yoto Carnegie award. Manon Steffan Ros has written a powerful, vivid and uncompromising story of survival that demands the reader to take note and reflect on humanity's relationship to the environment. Suffused with Welsh heritage and allusions to Welsh literature, this is a story of a singular place and time, but one that resonates for us all: full of darkness and light, pain and yearning. It is universal in its emotional scope. Beautiful, dark, hopeful and unforgiving. Short, a compact piece, 'The Blue Book of Nebo' is recommended for teen readers to adults.
Dylan was six when The End came, back in 2018; when the electricity went off for good, and the 'normal' 21st century world he knew disappeared. Now he's 14 and he and his mam have survived in their isolated hilltop house above the village of Nebo in north-west Wales, learning new skills, and returning to old ways of living. Despite their close understanding, the relationship between mother and son changes subtly as Dylan must take on adult responsibilities. And they each have their own secrets, which emerge as, in turn, they jot down their thoughts and memories in a found notebook - the Blue Book of Nebo.
This is one of those books that stays with you long after you have finished. I did not know what to expect when I started reading, but I was quickly drawn in. What has happened to the world? How does Dylan and his mum survive? For such a short book, 'The Blue Book of Nebo' packs a punch. It is authentic, brutal and beautiful, in its detailing of surviving in a world, in isolation, without electricity. Through the alternating perspectives of Dylan and his mum, we suffer and grow through their traumas, their decisions and their growing wisdom as they adapt to their new way of living. How their perspectives overlap and contrast is beautifully conveyed; sometimes shocking and heart-wrenching but also laced with hope, a yearning, a will to survive. It is impossible to read without being deeply affected; questioning your own place in a fragile ecosystem. How much we take our world, our society for granted. But, when we lose it all, what really matters?
I don't want to spoil what happens, but I will say that there were moments in the story that felt like my heart was being crushed and I nearly cried. There were moments I was intellectually dazzled and moments that made me smile and even laugh. All of humanity is in this profound little book. I don't think I will ever forget it.