A review by Nalini Haynes
★★★★☆ four out of five stars
Jack and Lucy-Anne, aged around seventeen, have been boyfriend and girlfriend for the two years since they lost their extended families in the terrorist attack that destroyed London. Emily, age nine, is Jack’s sole surviving family, for whom he has been caring with the help of his closest friends, including Sparky, an angry teenage boy who lost his older brother, and Jenna, another teen who didn’t lose family – at least not directly.
The teenagers believe there was a government cover-up instead of a terrorist attack although why it can’t be both is left unclear. A series of drop sites enable strangers to contact them, leaving evidence. How teenagers set up drop sites and circulated knowledge of them effectively without being caught remains a mystery, as does why these minors have no extended family, no welfare system to care for them and yet they’re clothed, shod and fed in a world that has not gone to hell in spite of London’s quarantine.
Jack and Lucy-Anne realise their relationship is winding down, with their friendship more important to them than their physical relationship. Jenna obviously has a crush on Jack yet she complicates matters.
One day an old woman, Rosemary, appears at Jenna’s house, claiming to have come from London. Rosemary heals Jack after Sparky stabs him because FRIENDS STAB FRIENDS TO PROVE A POINT. The friends follow Rosemary into London through secret paths reminiscent of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In London, Lucy-Anne loses her mind, the rest are captured and Jack is given a mission.
London Eye is genetically engineered virus meets mutant superpowers without the comedy often associated with comic book-style novels. London Eye is a much more suitable introduction to the genre than was Empty World, my personal induction to this genre at age ten.
Sexytimes are not graphic, they’re more implied. Showing a YA audience that even teenagers can weary of an unsuitable match sustained by physical attraction is possibly contentious and yet it’s appropriate, an issue the readers themselves are likely to face.
Lebbon’s story focuses on loyalty and chosen family as well as biological family with associated issues. Exploring real-world issues in this fantasy story may well help teens dealing with issues. London Eye is a quick read at 228 pages with a fast-paced story. It’s the beginning of a trilogy so many threads are flying in the breeze at the close of this, the first novel. Although the story has plotholes I believe the YA audience will enjoy this dramatic virus-meets-mutants story. I expect explosions, more superpowers and possibly elements of horror in the coming novels.