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The Never Weres

by Fiona Smyth

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science fiction
list price: $12.95
also available: Hardcover
published: 2011
publisher: Annick Press
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Canadian Children's  Book Centre
Librarian review

The Never Weres

In the near future, where a virus has stopped humanity’s ability to reproduce, three teenagers of the final generation of youth — Xian, Jesse and Mia — navigate a world where cloning has been made illegal and robots play a large role in society. With no family on Earth, Xian’s closest companion is one of the robots she has created. Jesse hopes to one day be a brilliant geneticist like his mother but can rarely get her attention. Mia’s love of art is expressed through her friendship with an elderly woman but opposed by her parents who want her to focus on survival skills.

While scavenging for parts for her robot projects, Xian discovers an abandoned science lab in a series of underground tunnels. A 60-year-old mystery begins to reveal itself, connecting a missing girl named Amelia Brown, the underground science lab and the mysterious symbol found on the walls of the tunnel as well as on a drawing by Mia’s elderly friend. Exploring the tunnels, they unravel the mystery of a missing clone and, in the process, help save the human race from extinction.

The Never Weres is an ambitious story with themes that will grab readers’ attention, especially with the recent rise in popularity of dystopian narratives in young adult fiction. While the ideas presented are interesting, the story could use more action to give the book a quicker pace and less exposition. Smyth, however, does create relatable teen characters in Xian, Jesse and Mia — using such universal adolescent themes as the tension between youth and family, the building of one’s identity and the expression of personal passions.

Smyth has a unique art style and painstakingly builds this futuristic world. Pages are packed with interesting details, hidden references and unique characters. Smyth’s artwork and panel layout have a surreal, almost psychedelic quality that is sometimes a detriment to the readability of the book, especially in her use of double-page spreads. In a graphic novel for young readers it is highly important to present a clear narrative.

The ending ties up a bit too nicely and easily but it’s still satisfying. Smyth has packed a lot into this graphic novel — cloning, technology, the appreciation of art, urban life and teenage angst — and despite the book’s flaws, there is something that will appeal to most every reader.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Summer 2011. Volume 34 No. 3.

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Three teens become humanity's only hope for survival.

Late in the next century, the human race is on the verge of extinction. A mysterious virus has resulted in no births in almost a generation. Despite the impending doom, three urban teenagers try to live their lives with hope.

Mia strives to preserve humanity's compassion through her art and her volunteer work with Mrs. C and the other "oldies." Tech-savvy Xian spends her time tinkering with the robots she's sure will inherit the Earth. Jesse, the son of geneticists, is convinced the future lies with cloning, but society is reeling from the grotesque failures of previous attempts. When the friends stumble upon the 60-year-old mystery of a missing girl, it leads them back to Mrs. C, who, it turns out, is the world's only successful clone -- and the key to saving our species.

Artist Fiona Smyth's gripping graphic novel depicts a future as visually detailed as it is emotionally rich. The Never Weres will keep readers breathless to the final page.


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Contributor notes

Fiona Smyth's work has been published across North America. The Never Weres is her first graphic novel for young readers. She is currently an instructor in illustration, comics, graphic novels and drawing at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto. Visit her website at www.fionasmyth.com.


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Editorial Reviews

Fiona Smyth has brought her skill in cartooning to her love of science fiction to create a graphic novel both intellectually challenging and visually entertaining.

— Resource Links

Overall, despite some weaknesses, The Never Weres wraps a worthwhile science-positive message within an engaging mystery adventure.

— The Deakin Review of Children's Literature

Many pages are crammed with these interesting details, set in adventurous layouts that often spill outside of the panels. Though this science fiction mystery's plot and layouts are a little too convoluted, its provocative ending is rewarding.

— School Library Journal

The Never Weres is an ambitious story with themes that will grab readers' attention, especially with the recent rise in popularity of dystopian narratives in young adult fiction.

— Canadian Children's Book News

There's much pleasure to be derived from the look of Smyth's future metropolis, with its favela-like city blocks, insectoid robots blurting out advertisements, and tattooed senior citizens.

— Quill and Quire

Fiona's pages are expertly composed and rich with bold, lively artwork that is challenging but totally accessible and readable. I was blown away by the beautiful, sprawling ink-washed double page spreads.

— woweezonk.blogspot.com

Smyth combines mystery, supernatural elements, and realistic human relationships to produce a magnified slice of what the future may hold. Both teens and adult readers will find her graphic novel riveting.

— ForeWord Reviews

A potential end-of-the-world scenario that is geared for a younger audience and actually has a happier-than-usual ending is a good thing in an increasing field of grim, sophisticated looks at here humanity is headed.

— Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Showing particular chops with chases, escapes and...actions like tantrums in single impressionistic mélanges of images, [Smyth]...cranks the tension up on the way to a climactic double surprise and...a tidy but upbeat resolution.

— Kirkus Reviews
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