This book is a trip. All Good Children is set in a post-apocalyptic world where The Over–huge, mythological bird creatures–have conquered the human race. Life goes on almost as usual, except that a good percentage of children are taken by the The Over for food and reproduction. Some are selected at birth, while others are taken in their teen years. Jordan has just reached the age where selection is made, and her ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) makes her a prime candidate for sent to one of The Over’s “summer camps”, where they decide unlucky teens’ fates.
All Good Children is told in alternating points of view, giving the perspectives of Jordan; her mother, June; and the Liaison between Jordan and The Over, Heaven Omalis. Each of these perspectives fit together neatly, showing the ways that individuals fight and become complicit in a system where they have lost any sense of power or control. Jordan is a fascinating character to see in this situation, because she has no hesitation in making a stand against The Over, even when it severely compromises her safety, because she has no patience for authority. Omalis’s POV offers a glimpse into what it’s like to side with the enemy, and how someone could choose to partner up with ruthless overlords. At first I chafed against reading her chapters, because I couldn’t understand how anyone could let themselves be used in that way, but as I read on, that became the most compelling element of the story. June bridges the gap between Jordan and Omalis. She loathes the system and The Over, but she participates in separating parents from their children in order to give them over as food or worse. It becomes more difficult to judge Omalis for her method of survival, when June has chosen a similar, though less extreme path.
I was surprised at first to find that Omalis was the main queer character–I had pegged Jordan as a swaggering queer girl–and at first rankled at the villain of the piece being queer, but I shouldn’t have doubted Dayna Ingram. Omalis is a complex character even when you hate her, and the relationship she has with Marla is intriguing. (Luckily, I didn’t need to pick, because Jordan’s swagger is also of the queer variety!)
This is a short read–under 200 pages–but it manages to convey this world and an engaging plot without seeming rushed. Dayna Ingram has a gift for imagining rich and disturbing worlds. Although The Over are fantastical, the rest of the world seems brutally realistic. I was hooked from the first fire-and-brimstone chapter, and was kept clinging on until the very last page. Eat Your Heart Out is one of my favourite books (who can resist lesbians and zombies?), and All Good Children definitely lives up to those expectations. Disturbing and enthralling, All Good Children is the queer post-apocalyptic YA we’ve been waiting for.