How I Saved the World in a Week

I was absolutely gripped by The Boy in the Tower last year, it was one of my most memorable lockdown reads so I was eagerly anticipating How I Saved the World in a Week.

Polly Ho-Yen has delivered another dystopian thriller of apocalyptic proportions! Think 28 Days Later with a hint of Walking Dead for Middle Grade with themes of friendship, family & mental health throughout.

Billy’s mum isn’t like other mums. All she wants is to teach him the Rules of Survival – how to make fire, build shelter and find food. She likes to test Billy on the rules until one day she goes too far, and Billy is sent to live with a dad he barely knows.

Then the world changes forever as people begin to be infected with a mysterious virus that turns their skin grey. As chaos breaks out, Billy has to flee the city. Suddenly he realises that this is what his mum was preparing him for – not just to save his family, but to save the whole world. 

Oh my word! This is as good as The Boy in The Tower if not better! In Part One of the plot we see the sharp decline of Sylvia (Billy’s mum’s) mental health. Preoccupied with survival, former scientist Sylvia begins to obsessively stockpile supplies in a Martello Tower on the Kent Coast. Leaving Billy alone in their flat she drives to the Tower night after night to make ‘preparations’ although for what no-one knows. Sketchy drawings of grey, terrifying figures are plastered on every surface of the inside walls of the dark, dank tower and two sleeping bags lay on the floor of a cell-like room.

Sylvia repeatedly pulls Billy out of school unexpectedly and furiously drills him on ‘How to Survive.’ The two of them spend the days when Billy should be in school building shelters and fires until one day, there are disastrous consequences. Social services place Billy with his estranged dad Steve where he struggles to settle. As if trying to live with a dad he barely knows wasn’t enough, Billy has Steve’s girlfriend Julie and her daughter Angharad to contend with. Luckily, he finds solace in classmate Anwar and the two of them become firm friends.

Part Two is where it all kicks off big time! Like in any good zombie apocalypse film there are subtle hints to begin with to what’s coming but all too soon, the world as Billy knows it is being overtaken by ‘Greys,’ infected humans that live on in a zombie-like state, searching for more bodies to feed on.

Billy, Steve, Julie and Angharad are amongst the mass exodus as thousands flee the city in sheer panic. Miles and miles of queuing traffic and then eerie streets with abandoned cars for me was reminiscent of scenes in I am Legend and Stephen King’s The Stand.

Prepare for utterly heart-pounding, nail-biting tension as the family try to escape the zombie-like greys waiting for their next feast. My heart was in my mouth on more than one occasion as it looks like there is no escaping their fate – think dead-ends… alleyways…deserted office blocks… Imagine being in the middle of nowhere, you’ve walked mile after mile, supplies running out, too scared to close your eyes…too scared to open them…

There’s gut-wrenchingly emotional moments when loved-ones are separated and goodbyes are said. This is an epic quest of survival, will Billy make it out alive? And what kind of world will greet them on the other side (if there is one)

This is binge-reading at it’s best, once you start you will not be able to put it down. I read some scenes literally holding my breath it’s that eerie. An absolute must read!

How I Saved the World in a Week’ was published by Simon and Schuster on the 8th July.

With thanks to Simon and Schuster and Netgalley UK for sending me an advance copy of the book.

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