This is the first in a trilogy for what some reviewers refer to as "pre-teens", although as a grown-up I liked it very much! You could easily see it as a non-preachy eco warning book, or, like many of it's reviewers on Amazon (lots of whom tell you that they are representative of the audience the book is aimed at) you could just read it as a brilliant adventure.
Kester Jaynes is in a kind of children's home. Although more like a prison really, as he's not allowed to leave, ever. He's been there six years and he can't speak. Until one night a flock of pigeons break the glass of his room, and he understands what they are saying. In fact, by "thinking" the words he wants to say, they understand him too. And they want to help him escape as quickly as possible, as there is a job to be done, urgently. When his friendly cockroach pal pursuades him to wiggle into a filthy drain and get away from his captors, the adventure truly begins! Animals are dead (well most of them) from a disease that there is no cure for. Humans now live in large cities. The countryside is empty and they all eat a kind of porrridge called "Formula" that someone has invented to take the place of real food.
Clever idea all round. If you are an adult and have ever come across a film called Soylent Green, you may remember that it had an all round foodstuff, too (although the Formula in this book is probably not made of the same stuff!). Guess what? Formula is making someone an awful lot of money! And of course there's Kester - a flawed child, for it is not explained why he cannot talk even though he desparately wants to. But he can communicate with animals. And there is another clever touch, for the conversations between boy and animal are not in "inverted commas" but in *stars*, which threw me at first until his first contact with another child, when her conversation was in inverted commas and the penny dropped. I'll bet pre-teens pick that up long before I did!!
Well Done Piers Torday (son of the slightly more famous, the late Paul Torday) for the first book in the trilogy, which can be read as a stand alone, but has many fans awaiting the second and third!