Carousel, by Brendan Ritchie

‘We almost got a door open today,’ Taylor said.
Lizzy and I looked at her.Carousel
‘What do we do if it opens?’ asked Lizzy.
‘Get the hell out of here,’ said Taylor.
‘Doesn’t it depend on what’s out there?’ I asked.
‘What do you think is out there, Nox? Zombies? A nuclear holocaust? You’ve heard the noises. We have to go out there,’ said Taylor.
I stared hard at the floor and wondered why the idea of a door opening freaked me out so much.

Nox doesn’t really understand how he’s come to be stuck inside Carousel shopping centre with only three companions, nor what has happened to the outside world. But it’s where he is, and it’s become a disconcerting kind of new-normal. His fellow residents are Canadian musical duo Taylor and Lizzy, and teenage Rocky, each of whom seems to cope with their containment in their own way. Their seemingly endless days of containment become a mix of figuring out how to survive, how to entertain themselves, and how to escape. Then there’s the dilemma of what they will do if they do escape. They have no contact with the outside world, and no idea what has happened out there and why are the ones who have survived. As time passes, though, they do have a growing need to find out.

Carousel is an absorbing young adult read with a dark edge. The four protagonists are, to their knowledge, the only survivors of some sort of apocalyptic event, but they have no way of knowing how true this is, and whether the disaster has just wiped out Perth, where the shopping centre is located, or if perhaps the whole world has changed.

The story is told from the first person viewpoint of Nox, a university graduate who has studied creative writing but hasn’t fulfilled any writing ambition, As such, it is Nox who we get to know best, but as the novel progresses the stories of the other inhabitants also develop. Readers will be absorbed by their predicament and intrigued by the mystery of what has happened and why they are there. The ending hints at a possible sequel, but the story stands satisfyingly on its own.

A strong debut novel suitable for teen readers.

Carousel, by Brendan Ritchie
Fremantle Press, 2015
ISBN 9781925162141

Available from good bookstores and online.