The Garden of Darkness explores the journey of four children who, after surviving a disease that seems to infect all but one adult, hope to find meaning by joining forces with this sole remaining grownup — who says he possesses a cure. These children discover, however, that the greatest meaning of all lies in the friendships they forge during the journey itself. This groundbreaking Young Adult novel—shaded with despair like that in The Road and hope and renewal like that found in The Hunger Games— shows the courage, tenacity and, finally, love necessary to create a new world from the ashes of the old.
Their families dead from the pandemic SitkaAZ13, known as “Pest,” 15-year-old cheerleader Clare and 13-year-old chess club member Jem, an unlikely pair, are thrown together and realize that, if either of them wishes to reach adulthood, they must find a cure. A shadowy adult broadcasting on the radio to all orphaned children promises just that—to cure children once they grow into Pest, then to feed them and to care for them. Or does this adult have something else in mind? Against a hostile landscape of rotting cities and of a countryside infected by corpses and roamed by voracious diseased survivors, Jem and Clare make their bid for life and, with their group of fellow child-travelers growing, embark on a journey to find the grownup they believe holds the cure. Their only weapon is Clare’s dog, Bear. But Clare and Jem, as well as their followers, are hampered by the knowledge that everything in this new child-led world had become suspect—the love of diseased adults, alliances, trust, hope. As Clare and Jem learn to stitch wounds, skin deer and survive in the ashes of the old world perhaps it is no surprise that they begin to find that friendship is as redemptive as anything they seek—that friendship has its own kind of healing power. And, at the end of their journey, in the face of the ultimate betrayal, they discover that out of friendship can come love.
“A believable post-apocalyptic world, children reliably on their own, and a truly creepy villain makes this a wonderful page-turner that cannot be put down.”
– Jane Yolen, author of Devil's Arithmetic, Briar Rose, Snow in Summer
"Gillian Kendall has written a gripping, thoughtful, and oftentimes creepy tale of survival and the resilience of the human spirit. This deftly crafted debut novel will keep readers eagerly engaged (and maybe just a little bit terrified) until the stunning conclusion."
– Jessica Brody, bestselling author of the Unremembered Trilogy
"Oh, this book. This book, this book, this book. Post-apocalyptic YA is usually just something I read for funsies, but I had to stay up last night until I'd finished this one. It wasn't the story--kids survive in a world where disease has wiped out all of the adults--but the writing. Most YA uses fairly simple, straightforward prose in telling its story, with the occasional descriptive passage used to point to something that will be Very Important to the Plot. This book, however, seemed to relish language; to use it to full effect to build mood and character. Every character had a distinctive voice, a distinctive way of speaking, which made them clear on the page. Each change of circumstance was rendered clearly, with the panic of the early part of the book giving way to the fear and loneliness of the middle, then on to the companionship, love and hope of the latter part. I really wish I could explain this better or that I had been smart enough to copy down some of the phrases and sentences that particularly stood out for me, but, alas, no. I will say, though, if you haven't read it yet, to give it a try when you have a chance. Like I said, there's nothing earth-shatteringly original about the plot, but the writing itself elevates this book far above the rest of the heaping pile of post-apocalyptic YA."
– Billie Bloebaum, Powell’s Books, Portland OR
"Children are faced with the unenviable task of rebuilding civilization after a disease known as the Pest wipes out most of humanity. Left behind are infected teens and preteens, who will die as they mature, and the Cured, adults whose attempts to stay alive turned them into insane monsters. A small group navigates the post-apocalyptic ruins of society: 15-year-old Clare, 13-year-old Jem, nine-year-old Sarai, and seven-year-old Mirri. As they forage and form anew family together, they slowly drift north, in search of the safe haven promised by the so-called Master, an adult who claims to have a cure and a refuge from the Cured. As they travel, they witness how other survivors have adapted to their new circumstances. Kendall tells the story from an emotional distance and at a leisurely pace, helping to strengthen the bleak, horrifying nature of the setting and premise. The narrative, while sometimes prone to meandering and digression, is strong and occasionally haunting, and the ending leaves much open for future exploration."
– Publisher's Weekly
“The Garden of Darkness is an astonishingly good debut about a cheerleader and a chess club member’s struggle to survive absent adults in a landscape ravaged by the Pest pandemic.”