I gotta admit. The cover, with a giant roach, did not entice me to read. In fact, this one sat at the bottom of the TBR pile for four entire library "check-out" periods -- of 3 weeks each -- before I could gather the courage to crack the spine.
Because my daughter loved it! She's also trained to handle the Madagascar hissing cockroaches at the Reid Park Zoo for educational presentations, so there's that. I had a roach whisperer urging me on.
Photos used with permission and courtesy of Sierra Horsey, Reid Park Zoo.
I'm not that brave (when it comes to roaches, my family will attest I have one heck of a scream) and opening the book's cover was a challenge. But once I did, I devoured (?!?) the story in one night.
Max's tale starts when he tries to show he's a good ...roach ... by offering shelter to two human children, Kaitlin and Jonno, being hunted down by the SilverSeeds, the crew of the notorious "Silver Ship" that takes kiddos to a new land, never to be seen again, every so many years. It maintains population in the enclosed city.
Immediately my ...antennae? ... knew something was up.
You learn Max was a boy until he spun a chrysalis and became a ...giant roach. And there's a lot of them, apparently, the result of a mutation wealthy residents introduced to their DNA to be able to survive a coming plague. (NOTE: As a parent, I did not buy that, but it's sci-fi / fantasy, so be prepared to throw your sense of reality out the window.) They wanted the survival qualities of the roach, but not the...final form.
They also erected a barrier around the city to keep the infection from getting in. Or, as experienced readers of science fiction will clue into immediately, keep their own iron-fisted control over residents by preventing them from getting out. Except on the SilverShips. (Antennae quivering yet?)
Max saves the two children and ends up fighting and dragging an Enforcer into his nest as well. But the kids don't realize Max is trying to save them. There are also Night Roaches who eat people, although Max is not one of them, and the girl -- Kaitlin -- mistakenly frees the Enforcer, thinking he's Jonno, as she tries to escape Max's nest. Turns out, the Enforcer IS her brother -- her older brother, Tomas, who vanished a few years ago.
Tomas dutifully hauls his younger sister back to the SilverShip, and the plot as to who the kids really are, and why they're being removed from this post-plague world on the SilverShips slowly unfolds, all while putting Max in increasing danger.
I won't spoil how it ends, just know there were tears, and I never expected to cry over a roach!