I´m doing the Pennsylvania thingy backwards, reading the published fan fiction pieces before reading Pennsylvania by Michael Bunker, which might be slightly unorthodox, but so far it was worth it me would think. I may miss out on some connections, but with every novella, with every story the picture gets clearer, and once I have time to tackle the magnus opum itself I should bypass the cloud of unknowing.
The Girl In The City starts out with Leah, a teenage girl living with her father, getting chased by The Wild Ones after stealing things which her father might trade for food. Leah needs to get out more and more into unknown and more dangerous territory, but this night ends particularly bad. First she loses everything, and then Leah gets herself into a real mess between the TRACE rebels and the Transport government. Her only hope is an Amish man by the name of Isaac, who, after going out a second time to find food to survive, helps her instead of handing her over to the police. Which of course brings himself at risk as well.
Under the ever so watchful eyes of Transport, I developed some paranoia myself. Not funny, and I don´t wanna think about, not really, how it must be to live in a society where every step is watched and everyone under constant surveillance. It´s scary, and Utopia it ain´t.
I haven´t quite figured out who The Wild Ones are exactly. Outsiders, as the name would imply, living on the fringe of society, neither here nor there. Scavengers who get by somehow even I am not sure if they are connected to the TRACE rebels (my guess is not), or under opression by the Transport government (my guess is yes). They are, however, not the friendly lot.
There is a lot of conflict between the different groups, and a high tension. The action is immediate and as a reader I am thrown into the middle of it straight away. What´s as important that the storyline is able to stand on its own feet, and with it being "only" novella length that is not easy to achieve. Full conclusion, and a satisfying ending which develops naturally, one step at a very fast time. A great mix of action and emotions actually.
The interaction between Isaac and Leah is full of genuine kindness, and the ones I enjoyed the most. There is hope that there is a place for kindness even, or especially when times are bad and one is living under an oppressive government regime. It´s beautiful how a stranger doesn´t have his own interest at heart, but helps someone who might not be able to help herself. And a teenager like Leah shouldn´t have to deal with the things she has to deal with, nor see the things she has to see in this world which is not a friendly place to grow up. There are trust issues too obviously since trust takes guts, and Leah has it. How she deals with all the pressure and that the fate of the city might be in her hands is some serious great character development.
Leah is a great and intriguing character, and while I´m a newcomer to the Pennsylvania world, I would love to see more of her. She has the right attitude, even she may be too young to understand everything that is happening around her. A smart girl who learns fast and who doesn´t overestimate herself, but knows when help is needed and even more important is able to accept it.
Also the beautiful black/white illustrations by Ben Adams enriches the novella with a feeling of gritty extraordinaire, and I have serious fangirl moments every time I discover more of his works.