ARC Review: Arctic Zoo by Robert Muchamore

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From London . . .
Georgia gets straight As at school, writes essays for fun, has been placed first in twenty-six drone races and has a serious addiction to buying Japanese stationery. She plans to follow her older sister Sophie and become a doctor, but her worldview is shattered when Sophie commits suicide.
To Lagos . . .
Julius lives in Ondo, a Nigerian state where half the population lives on less than a dollar a day. But he isn’t one of them. His uncle has been governor of Ondo for more than a decade and his mother is the power behind that throne. He finds refuge in a derelict zoo with best friend Duke, but as the two of them grow close, the world outside becomes more and more hostile.

Disclaimer: Thank you so much to Hot Key Books for my copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This has not affected or changed my opinions in any way.

I really didn’t know what to expect with this book, and I was surprised in a big way. From the synopsis, I expected most of the book to be set in a mental institution, but instead I found a journey to both characters ending up there. I love how Arctic Zoo book flickered backwards and forwards between different times in the characters lives, often enough to feel fast paced but not often enough to make the reader confused.

In fact, let’s talk about these delightful characters. I honestly loved them both for different reasons, and I was shocked by how well the alternate PsOV from both characters worked so well. They lead very different lives, with Georgia being in the UK, a girl with straight As, who has been brought up on drone racing and has a difficult home life, especially when her sister commits suicide. Georgia, who has always looked up to her sisters achievements and followed in her footsteps, realises there might be more to life than studying.

Julius is a very different story. A young gay man in Nigeria, coming to terms with his sexuality and struggling with his family’s political status. His coming out changes his life in many ways, and the book explores his relationships, family/home life, school and friendships, all in a politically turbulent time and place.

Both of the characters, however different, lead very unique yet equally compelling and intriguing lives. Before long, I felt sucked in to both of their stories and I was struggling to put the book down, finishing it’s 400+ pages in just a few days. Sometimes, with books of different PsOV, I find myself favouring one character over the other and I struggle to give completely equal attention to both. This wasn’t the case with Arctic Zoo, and I think that’s because their stories are so different and not often intertwined. Some readers might find it disappointing that they actually don’t spend much time together, but I found it refreshing and well-paced, as the alternate view points would be a break from the one before. I never felt stuck in one persons reality, and knew something fresh was just a few pages away.

I even enjoyed how the characters ended up in different countries for the majority of the book. It still amazes me how Muchamore wrote Julius’ chapters in Nigeria having never visited the country himself. I can be no judge for accuracy, but I felt fully immersed in the story and it felt real. It shows that he had people who had experienced life in Nigeria check his work.

The only downside for me was actually Georgia’s story, towards the end. It just felt a little…rushed? I left feeling as though everything had happened too smoothly, and too quickly, and without much room for full explanation. I won’t go into it too deeply in fear of spoiling the ending, but I just wanted a little more in way of description of how everything slotted into place at the end. Unfortunately for me it left me feeling disjointed about her story as a whole, which I had otherwise really enjoyed.

However, this was a very small disappointment in the grand scheme of what turned out to be an incredibly enjoyable, heartbreaking but hopeful read. If you want something a little different in YA but still relatable and easy to read, this one is perfect!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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