When faced with the apocalypse, ask yourself: What would Jack Ferris do?
No doubt, the post-apocalyptic world would be a grim place for pacifist, vegan anarchists – meaning: for people like me.
14-year-old Jack Ferris isn't limited by these inhibitions. His survivalist parents raised him to be exactly that: a survivor. When all adults and 80% of all children under 16 fall prey to a mysterious sickness, Jack's set of skills comes in handy.
Now, I don't like YA post-apocalyptic stories.
Thank heavens, Hell's Children
isn't one of those. Just like the cover promises, it's a post-apocalyptic survival thriller, with a strong focus on „survival“, which happens to have young people in it. Very realistic young people, I might add: capable teenagers like Jack, Lisa, and some of their friends; bored and ruthless bullies; lost children who're drifting in a world without social media, online games, YouPorn, and all the other usual stuff to spend your time.
Due to his special – and quite lonely – upbringing, Jack's as smart as he is condescending. in the beginning, other people are little more than „cabbages“ to him. His smug attitude comes back to bite him in the ass. Hard. I can't deny that this was kind of satisfying. He's not beyond failure, which helps in making him a believable, interesting character.
The world after the Sickness is harsh, brutal, and demands brutal decisions. John Monk pulls no punches here and shows a world in which old rules don't count any more and are replaced by survival of the meanest. Jack and his friends fight to rebuilt society and preserve their humanity.
If I wanted to nitpick, I'd wonder why Monk included further POVs quite late in the game. But I don't really feel like nitpicking. The new POVs added to the story, even if they were introduced rather inelegantly. Even some tropes I'm really, really tired of e.g. (attempted) rape of the female lead made sense and seemed a logical development for the story.
To conclude: an excellent, realistic post-apocalyptic story. The end is left open enough to start another series, and if that's the case (and it looks like there will be a sequel), I'll be in for the ride. But the book also works well on its own.