Ash is still falling from the sky two years after a series of globally devastating volcanic eruptions. Sunlight is as scarce as food, and cities are becoming increasingly violent as people loot and kill in order to maintain their existence. Sixteen-year-old Miles Newell knows that the only chance his family has of surviving is to escape from their Minneapolis suburban home to their cabin in the woods, As the Newells travel the highways on Miles' supreme invention, the Ali Princess, they have high hopes for safety and peace. But as they venture deeper into the wilderness, they begin to realize that it's not only city folk who have changed for the worse.
The year is 2008, two years after a massive volcano has wreaked havoc in the United States. The air is polluted with ash, crops keep failing, fuel is scarce and looting is rampant. Sixteen-year-old Miles knows that the only way for his family to survive is to head to their cabin in the Minnesota wilderness. Relying on knowledge passed down to him from an elderly friend, Mr. Kurz, Miles constructs a man-powered vehicle out of bicycles and sailboat parts to transport himself, his parents and younger sister. Suspense builds steadily as the traveling foursome contends with hostile strangers, including road bandits and a sheriff who has allowed his relatives to occupy their cabin. Though it looks like the Newells have reached a dead end, Miles forms another plan. In an imaginative and plausible rendering of a futuristic society, Weaver plants enough familiar details so that readers can relate--including Dairy Queens and McDonald's restaurants (though meals cost 10 times as much), plus Miles's memories of school, suburbia and Mr. Kurz's nursing home. Although danger lurks around every corner, audience members will rest assured that Miles, armed with good instincts and highly developed mechanical skills, will be prepared to combat whatever roadblocks his loved ones meet. Ages 12-up.
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