Can you put a price on a life? Is one life worth more than another? Should one life be saved over another? Is it even possible to choose which animals and people are worth saving? And if it is, should we really be interfering in the life cycle? So many big, philosophical questions, so many choices to be made. Kirsty Applebaum’s third book is utterly compelling from first page to last.
Ever since he was born, twelve-year-old Lonny Quicke has been shielded from the dangers of the outside world, hidden away in a forest away from the people of Farstoke. The reason, Lonny is a lifeling - a unique individual with the power to bring back life to living things that are on the brink of death. But every life saved comes at a price. Using his power to save a life shortens his own life; sometimes by minutes, sometimes by days, sometimes by weeks, sometimes by years.
Lonny is desperate to see the world outside of his own and to find the memories of his dead mother. But that means venturing outside of the forest and in doing so he may be forced to reveal his closely guarded secret…
The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke is a thought-provoking, enthralling and captivating read that is full of emotion. Applebaum expertly explores the ideas of love, life and time and challenges readers views and values throughout. Whilst the action is not fast-paced, it is full of tension and suspense and readers will come to fear the sounds of humming and buzzing that frequent Lonny’s mind. Applebaum wastes no time with gentle introductions, she immediately grabs the attention of the reader as they are drawn straight into a magical life-giving moment - the first of Lonny’s many decisions. Once you are hooked by the first chapter, Applebaum refuses to let you go. The closing of each chapter demands that you read the next and the promise to myself of just one more quickly turned to several more - needless to say, I couldn’t put the book down and it was read in one go.
The narrative is carried forward by deep and meaningful acts and difficult decisions that will have life-altering consequences - for both animals and humans. For every action has a consequence. Every decision that Lonny makes feels big. He seeks friendship but this will come at a price. He wants to live but is constantly being asked to give up his own life in order to save another. He desires freedom but living in safety and relative captivity provides the protection that he so desperately needs.
The story is steeped in mythical folklore; Farstoke people celebrate and worship the lifelings at their yearly festival, giving thanks in the hope that in their time of need a lifeling will appear. When Lonny is befriended by one of the Farstoke families he finds friends, foes and learns the lengths that desperate people will go to in order to save the ones they love.
Applebaum provides so many opportunities for discussion and for readers to explore their own morals and values. Just putting myself in Lonny’s position at once felt overwhelming; the choices, the responsibility, the power. I found myself scrutinising every decision that Lonny made and readers will be doing the same.
How do I feel after reading the book, drained, completely and totally emotionally drained. I say with some confidence that Kirsty Applebaum has written one of the best middle-grade books of 2021.
Recommended for 9+.
With thanks to Kirsty Applebaum and Nosy Crow for the advanced reader copy that was received through NetGalley.