Sunday, March 14, 2010

Review: Epitaph Road by David Patneaude

Tags: middle grade, YA, dystopian, sexism, bioterrorism

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


In 2067, a potent virus known as Elisha’s Bear wipes out 97% of the world’s male population. Thirty years later, women have rebuilt the world into a much better place than it was before the Bear. In this structured world, 14-year-old Kellen Dent feels like an isolated freak, with all the women’s suspicious eyes on him. Part of him longs to head into the wilderness and join his solitary fisherman father.

Then Kellen discovers that a recurrence of the Bear threatens his father at the mostly-male community he lives in. Along with two female friends, cousins Tia and Sunday, Kellen journeys to find his father and warn him of the impending viral outbreak before it’s too late. In doing so, however, they discover the truth behind the Bear, their society as it is, and a future threat that they must stop before all hell breaks loose.


EPITAPH ROAD is an entertaining, though not spectacular, dystopian read that creatively imagines a world gone awry from the actions of men (war, rape, etc.) and rebuilt with the capable—albeit misguided—hands of women. The story is creative, yet feels incomplete in some areas.

Kellen’s world takes a while to build up, but it ends up being a fairly realistic portrayal of what the world could look like if we continue on our irresponsible paths. David Patneaude envisions a world destroyed by the actions of men and turns sexism on its head: it was interesting to see women’s reactions to Kellen, as if he—a rather mild-mannered-to-the-point-of-being-maybe-boring-and-generic male narrator—could be held accountable for centuries of destruction. While the 21st-century history lessons felt rather laundry listed, they provided a helpful timeline for the reasoning of the existence of Kellen’s world.

Unfortunately, EPITAPH ROAD was not as engaging as I wanted it to be, on account of a lack of complete development across all important fields. The concept of Kellen’s world is disconcertingly plausible, but parts of it failed to take into account the believable passage of time—for example, how have things such as the climate changed a hundred years from now? How have people adapted their lifestyles to accommodate such unfathomable natural evolutions? A few fancy electronic gadgets thrown in does not a futuristic world make. In addition, the story seemed to rely too much on the fanciful idea of its dystopia and thus allows neither the main characters nor the plot to be fully fleshed out. Kellen, Tia, and Sunday often felt like stage actors playing their way through the action and narrow escapes, and the majority of the story did not lead up to its “apocalyptic threat” climax.

Ultimately, EPITAPH ROAD is not a standout example of dystopian lit, but its mix of action and “ungendered” interactions (i.e. little romance to “bog it down”) will make it a good read for young male readers who are on the brink of discovering authors like Scott Westerfeld.

Similar Authors
Scott Westerfeld (Uglies series)
Michael Grant (Gone)

Writing: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3 out of 5 - See, now, this is, like, HIGHLY evocative of a movie promotion poster. Which just kind of makes me laugh, because, like most movie posters, this one totally does not capture the feel that I felt this book wanted to take: that of danger, and, uh, a dystopia.

EgmontUSA / March 23, 2010 / Hardcover / 272pp. / $16.99

ARC received at NCTE.


  1. Good review. I hadn't heard much about this, so I'm glad to get an opinion on it. Actually, I think my biology teacher and another student had a discussion about this book...

  2. Sounds like an interesting premise... though I'd be worried that the sexism aspects wouldn't be handled that well (it seems that people often assume that, if women are given power, they'll start acting like men and you'll end up with the same old problems). Any thoughts on that?

  3. Doesn't sound like a must read. I guess I don't need to read every single dystopia out there!

  4. I'm kind of sad you disliked it, I've been wanting to read this book for a while when I read a fantastic review on another site, but now it seems just average. I think I'll still read it though, thanks for the review!

  5. Aaargh, I've been waiting impatiently for this one for a while and was hoping it would be awesome. It kind of sounds like one of the books in Jean Ure's Plague series, actually. I might still check it out, because I have to read anything even vaguely dystopian (it's a compulsion). Interesting review, as ever. :)

  6. McKenzie: WHAT?! Normal people in everyday life having a conversation about a YA dystopian book that hasn't been released yet?? I'm amazed!

    La Coccinelle, hmmm... I wonder if that "sex switch" is inevitable...? My brain's mush due to studying right now, but you're welcome to check the book out and see for yourself whether or not you think the sexism aspect was handled well! :)

    Lenore: I know the feeling. It's sooo difficult to resist reading each and every one...

    Audrey: Good to know you'll still try it! Who knows, it could be your thing. :)

    Lauren: Haha, you're like Lenore. And me, a little. :P

  7. I have this book on preorder and now am thinking it's not a must read as much as I was thinking it was. I'll still give it a try when it gets here, just will keep your review in the back of my mind while reading.

    Thanks for the review.

  8. This book was interesting enough in concept but as you have said here wasn't the end all be all of dystopian literature. It was just kind of *meh* for me. None of the characters truly drew me in nor was there much in the way of fast-paced movement (with the exception the one notable sequence when we find out what ultimately happens to Sunday). The story was entirely understated, which isn't necessarily a bad thing just didn't do a whole lot for me personally.


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