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Book Review

The Young World by Chris Weitz has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting [magazine](https://store.focusonthefamily.com/goaa-thriving "magazine"). It is the first book in "The Young World" trilogy.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

After a strange disease —deemed the Sickness — seems to have wiped out all the adults and young children in the world, the surviving adolescents band together in tribes in order to survive. Jefferson and his best friend, Donna, are part of the Washington Square tribe in New York City. The teens in this group work together to find food in the surrounding buildings. Jefferson’s older brother, Washington, is the leader of the tribe. Strong and charismatic, Washington has kept the teens working together and relatively nonviolent. He is preparing Jefferson to take over leadership as he is approaching his 18th birthday. Whatever the Sickness is, it attacks the teens soon after they reach adulthood.

Jefferson faces down members of the Uptown tribe when they come to trade. The Uptowners bring a large pig, but what they want in exchange is girls. Jefferson refuses their offer. Before a fight can break out, Washington shoots the pig. Its dead weight is too much for the Uptowners to carry through the streets, especially since wild dogs will smell the blood. Washington dares the Uptowners to shoot him, as he will be turning 18 the following day. Instead, they tell him to enjoy the pain of the Sickness, but let Jefferson know they plan on taking revenge. Once the other tribe leaves, Jefferson and his friends bring the pig into their compound and celebrate. Fresh meat is a rarity, and the tribe plans on having a barbecue.

Washington succumbs to the Sickness days after his birthday. He turns the tribe over to Jefferson’s leadership. When Jefferson’s friend, Brainbox, an introverted genius, says he found information that may lead them to the cure of the disease, Jefferson decides to go on a quest to find it. First, they must get to the library across town to find an archived medical journal. Donna insists on going with them, and she brings along Peter, another of her friends, who is a homosexual and devout Christian.

As the four head out of their safety zone, they realize they are being followed by SeeThrough (who got her name because she is so tiny and thin). Jefferson tries to get her to go back to safety, but she insists she can help. When Jefferson tries to force her away, SeeThrough proves her abilities by incapacitating him with her martial arts moves. She is allowed to come with them. The five teens travel in a massive pickup truck that has been fitted with guns and bulletproof glass. They call it Chiquita. The modifications come in handy when a rival tribe shoots and throws Molotov cocktails at them.

The group survives the battle and takes stock of their injuries. One of Peter’s ears has been partially shot off, but other than that, they are OK. They stop at an abandoned drug store to see if they can scavenge more supplies. Jefferson finds some ADHD pills and pockets them as they can be used to trade with other tribes. The group finds the library without any additional incidents. Once inside, they split up to find the medical journal they need. SeeThrough stays outside to guard the truck.

The library, which has been rumored to be haunted, appears to be untouched. Jefferson and Donna search together, and he takes the moment to tell her that he loves her. Donna is flabbergasted, and although she is pretty sure she loves him, she is too afraid to admit it. Jefferson is upset, but before they can work through their feelings, they hear gunfire outside.

SeeThrough is trying to fend off a group of attacking Uptowners. The Uptowners destroy the truck, and the kids assume that SeeThrough is killed. Jefferson, Donna and Peter retreat inside the library and eventually are taken prisoner by its inhabitants.

This Uptown tribe worships and protects the information inside the library. They have cultivated the rumor that the building is haunted to keep the other tribes from destroying it. Once Jefferson admits that they were looking for information, the new tribe frees them. They take the kids to Brainbox, who has found the medical journal.

Their captors insist they celebrate together, and Jefferson is thrilled to smell roasting meat — until he realizes it is human flesh. SeeThrough, who is still alive, sneaks in and disarms one of the captors. They all manage to escape in the chaos that follows.

After spending the night in an abandoned hotel, Brainbox tells them that the possible cure for the Sickness can be found on Plum Island, a medical research laboratory. Jefferson advises the others to head back to the safety of Washington Square, but they refuse. They set off to the Bazaar, near Grand Central Station, a center for commerce in this new world. They are surprised to learn that bartering is not allowed; they must trade something to receive marked bills that they can then use to buy supplies and ammunition. Jefferson sells the pills he pocketed from the drugstore, and then he and SeeThrough participate in a fight ring in order to get the rest of the money they need. They discover that the Bazaar is run by the Uptowners who seek revenge against them. Once these Uptowners learn that Jefferson and his friends have entered their territory, the group is forced to escape, again, this time by fleeing through the unused subway tunnels. Along the way, they pick up Kath, a tough girl who wants out of the Uptown tribe. As they make their way through Central Park, a bear that escaped from the zoo kills SeeThrough.

Jefferson and his friends make it to Harlem, where they must now deal with the African-American tribe. Once again, they are taken prisoners. They discover this tribe is well-fed and has fresh produce. Their leader admits they have a farm nearby. They have also been able to use a 3-D printer to make guns out of plastic. Their plan is to take over the other territories, so they cannot let the Washington tribe go for fear they will warn the others. Jefferson arranges a deal: The Harlem tribe will use their resources and contacts to get them to Plum Island. In exchange, the Washington tribe will give them the cure to the Sickness.

Things go well for Jefferson and his friends as they take a boat to Plum Island. Once they arrive, they wait for daylight to land, but are attacked by a tribe of younger teens, who take them to the island as prisoners. Inside the research facility, they are introduced to The Old Man.

They had heard rumors that an adult survived, but no one knew if the rumors were true. The Old Man is a scientist with a rare genetic disorder, which allowed him to survive. Now he experiments on the teens that the others catch to try and find a cure. He injects Jefferson and Kath with the virus. Brainbox uses an antidote of his own creation to heal Jefferson, but Kath dies under The Old Man’s care.

Brainbox then covertly injects The Old Man with a toxic substance, and Jefferson chokes the man to death. Brainbox sets the others free. He has also managed to make contact with the world outside of New York City. Members of the United States Navy rescue the kids of the Washington Tribe who are on the island.

Christian Beliefs

Donna wishes she were named Madonna after Jesus’ mother, not the singer. She figures Jefferson’s parents were all about teaching their kids about the Golden Rule. Their truck has a Saint Christopher figure on the dash. Donna’s friend Peter is Christian.

Someone spray-painted Revelation 2:4 on the ground, which Peter then quotes for the others. When they pass a church, Peter asks for time to stop in and pray, saying it might help their cause. The church is filled with rotting corpses. Peter laments that maybe God has thrown them all away.

The library has a painting of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments. Peter wants to take the library’s copy of the Gutenberg Bible. He argues with an Uptown girl about the existence of God, explaining that He gave us free will, so He cannot be blamed for the evil that humans do.

Donna thanks God when a song makes her cry and she realizes she can still feel things deeply. Peter prays over SeeThrough’s body. The teens in Harlem have a hospital in which crucifixes hang and the Bible is read aloud to the dying. Jefferson relates how the Bible says there was an earthquake when Jesus died. Some of the kids believe The Old Man is an angel sent from God to heal the righteous. The Old Man quotes Job 1:15.

Other Belief Systems

Donna and many others believe that the library is haunted. Jefferson’s father was a Buddhist and raised his kids in that faith. Jefferson thinks about how prayer did not save anyone when the Sickness stuck. The truck the teens drive has a Buddha bobble-head on the dash. Jefferson mentions a Buddhist poem that he equates to the Lord’s Prayer. The kids think the library looks like a temple. The tribe that lives in the library worships the god of information. One boy tells the others about his skirmishes with other survivors, including voodoo priests.

Some kids worship The Old Man because they think he has magical powers. An Uptown girl says that God is a myth like the Tooth Fairy.

When Jefferson is fighting the Sickness, he thinks about the Buddhist theory of death. Buddha attained nirvana, a kind of nonbeing, because he had no attachment to earthly things. Buddha’s followers say heaven and earth trembled when he died. Jefferson tells about the different punishments a person receives after death because of the desires and attachments they had here on earth. Jefferson talks about the idea in Tibetan Buddhism called the bardo. It is the state between life and death, the idea that your spirit hangs around before it is reborn.

Authority Roles



God and Jesus are used alone as profanities and with the words: thank, knows and help us. The f-word is used in various ways and with mother, you and in the abbreviation NILF, which means Nerd I’d like to. A-- is used alone and with smart, jack, hole, bad, kick some and big. S--t is used alone and with dumb, bull, house and Holy. D--n, b--ch and h--- are used. Other objectionable words are p---ed, crap, butt, boner, poopoo, wusses, d--- and c---.

Donna and Jefferson both have memories about the Sickness taking members of their families. Another tribe shoots at them and throws homemade bombs at their truck. Part of Peter’s ear is shot off. Donna uses superglue to try and piece it back together. The Uptowners attack SeeThrough on the truck, exchanging gunfire and then blowing it up with a flamethrower. The library tribe explodes a stun grenade that blinds Donna and Peter and causes their ears to ring to the point of deafness for some time. They are beaten until they stop fighting.

The library tribe is cannibalistic. They serve Jefferson a human thighbone on a plate. He does not eat it. There is a bloody battle as he and his friends escape the library. They shoot their captors, and Jefferson uses his father’s sword to stab a boy. He also cuts off another’s hand. Teens bet on dogs as they fight to the death. The last dog standing is beaten to death with a baseball bat. Jefferson and SeeThrough fight two boys from another tribe in order to make enough money for supplies. Other teens bet on them.

SeeThrough breaks a boy’s leg. She stamps on his leg and his face. His partner snaps her shoulder out of its socket. Jefferson punches him in the head until the boy is unconscious. Donna kicks a boy down the stairs. The Uptown tribe massacres a tribe of tunnel dwellers in their search for the Washington tribe.

Kath repeatedly stabs a boy. A bear that escaped from the zoo attacks and kills SeeThrough. She is shaken like a rag doll and thrown through a plate of glass. The others kill the bear. Donna remembers how puppies, whose masters died in the Sickness, eventually grew too big for their collars and suffocated.

A tribe of younger teens that work for the Old Man attacks the Washington tribe’s boat. Several children are killed. Jefferson and his friends are taken prisoner. The Old Man injects the Sickness into Jefferson and Kath. Kath dies but Jefferson survives. Brainbox then covertly injects The Old Man with a toxic substance, and Jefferson chokes the man to death.


Kath and Jefferson share a passionate kiss. They also have sex in the tunnels of Grand Central Station, but it is not graphically described. Donna remembers how after her parents divorced, her father wanted to have sex with girls young enough to be his daughter. She says most of the boys’ bedrooms are filled with pornography. She admits that she is, technically, a virgin, and that Jefferson’s older brother broke up with her because she would not have sex with him.

A prostitute in Uptown offers to give Jefferson a hand job. She then offers to have her boyfriend do it. Or let her boyfriend watch them. Peter buys a T-shirt that references Fifty Shade of Grey. A boy theorizes the Sickness began because someone had sex with an infected monkey. The leader of the Uptowners wants Donna and SeeThrough to become prostitutes.

Jefferson describes a boy becoming a transvestite after the Sickness since his parents would not be alive to throw him out of the house. Peter is homosexual. Before the Sickness, he transferred to a high school for LBGT teens. Donna thinks things must be better for him now since no one can afford to be homophobic. Peter makes a crude comment about not wanting to enter somewhere from the back.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: Some of the kids drink beer. Jefferson and his friends drink martinis when in an Uptown bar. SeeThrough spits hers out.

Drugs: Donna mentions that some of the kids smoke pot. Jefferson takes the ADHD pills because he knows many kids like to take them.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

15 and up


Chris Weitz






Record Label



Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hatchette Book Group Inc


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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