KJ Matthews grew up in two countries and three towns. She remembers being unimpressed not to be invited to a 5th birthday party at the White House. As an adult, she added another four different locations in the same two countries (and she still hasn’t been invited to anything at the White House). In between moving, she fell in love with teaching teenagers, and can’t imagine why anyone would want to teach five-year-olds. They pee on their shoelaces! KJ loves the young adult and new adult age group and adores losing herself in writing, reading or watching people working out who they are, particularly in different environments to what they are used to. You can’t get more different than space.
Thus her series “The Odyssey of the Seven” grew. The first book sets the stage for a group of teenagers blasted into the unknown. Will they fall on each other, aka “Lord of the Flies”, or will they form their own family…
KJ is writing the second series based on the same characters, but whilst she has an idea of the eventual outcome, her characters have a habit of doing what they darned well, please. She had a clever working title, but it might give too much away if she told you what that was. It would also help if she could remember it.
Questions for book clubs and classes
In Alone – Seven teenagers in their last couple of years of school face devastation. The concept, whilst set in the distant future in outer space, still holds for people in the real world. The world the teens come from has stagnated. Disease is almost irradiated, but research into neurological conditions such as Autism has halted. Teenagers have limited access to personal tech (think mobile phones, gaming consoles), and as explained in Captive, this is because of power usage and environmental consequences.
Think of your own lives as you answer these questions.
- What would you do if everything you knew was ripped away from you? (Loss of family, loss of belongings)
- The teens demonstrate extraordinary resilience, but the story is told from only a couple of points of view (Kay’s and Samson’s). What is going on in the heads of the others?
- We hear very little from Petey, the elected Captain. Is a school captain, footballer, intelligent, and popular senior appropriate for the position of captain of six other teens? What strengths and weaknesses would he potentially have, and how can he overcome them.
- Kay has issues with Petey. She doesn’t elaborate on them but she is clearly frustrated with his leadership style. Is this a symptom of being a little less mature than the others, or does Kay have a point?
- Throughout the book (and indeed the series) there is an assumption that many of the characters have learnt skills from their parents. We know that Steph is a skilled chemist in her own right, but for the other characters, is this a reasonable assumption? Do children learn from listening to parents discuss their day at work? What happens when parents don’t have dinner table conversations?
- Tiff and Louie’s stories aren’t elaborated on. Tiff has said little more than that she is illiterate. Both of these characters underwent significant childhood trauma. Louie’s was fairly successfully addressed by his foster family and friendship with Samson. Tiffany doesn’t discuss her trauma. Her engaging in inappropriate behaviour with an adult is a function of this trauma. She has the added difficulty of severe Dyslexia. How come Tiffany, a person with a horrific childhood and a learning disability, demonstrates similar levels of resilience to the others?