Reviews for Only Ones

Booklist Reviews 2011 November #2
The only ones left on earth after a mysterious apocalypse are a misfit group of 13- and 14-year-olds who have found their way to a town called Xibalba. There they live off what was left behind and use their different skills for the ostensible good of their new little society. When the story's hero, Martin, arrives, his contribution becomes the re-creation of a spaceship-like contraption he had been building with his father, who was lost on the Day. Many of the distinct characters in this endeavor, which is reminiscent of both H. G. Wells novels and Lord of the Flies, are willing to follow Martin in his effort, at least initially, despite what happened to their previous leader and the fact that he, like the reader, doesn't really know what the machine will even do. Martin presses on through his own hopes and doubts--and amid the violence, teen hormones, and mysteries of Xibalba, renamed Ararat by its inhabitants--and those who press on through pages of vagueness will find an intriguing ending likely to make their heads spin. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
During one afternoon, everyone in the world disappears--except for a small group of children. Martin believes his father's unfinished machine is connected to the event, but he needs the help of the other kids to complete it. With a colorful cast of characters and a unique setting, the story will appeal to sci-fi fans on their way to Robert Heinlein.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 July #2

One afternoon, nearly everyone in the world disappeared, leaving Martin Maple and a village of kids to try to survive long enough to find them again. 

After Martin's father leaves on a trip, Martin notices the rest of the island's population seems to have vanished as well. Because he's only ever had his father and one single friend, Martin learns about the world and self-socializes through reading books before setting off to the mainland to find out if he is truly alone. He finds the last town believed to exist, the newly named Xibalba, populated by the children left behind. Although the third-person narration closely follows Martin, a somewhat self-involved child who finds other people to be mysteries, the rich side characters come alive through their distinct traits and abilities. And Martin has an ability of his own: machinery. After spending his life at his father's side learning how to build a machine that he doesn't know the purpose of, Martin decides he will build one that will save them all. The stakes are real for the kids trying to survive in the remnants of civilization; actions have consequences. Not every question is answered, but the story is so dependent on the asking that it works.

Both literary and engaging, this is the kind of book readers will want to return to for new discoveries. (Science fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 July #1

In Starmer's (Dweeb) unsettling post-apocalyptic tale, Martin Maple has grown up with his father on an island in near- total isolation. When his father fails to return from a trip to the mainland, 12-year-old Martin ventures ashore for the first time and finds everyone gone. Traveling across the country, he discovers nothing but empty homes and abandoned cars until he reaches Xibalba, a town populated by a group of misfit children, apparently the last people left on Earth. While on the island, Martin and his father had built a complex, Rube Goldbergesque machine of unknown purpose: "The less you understand, the better," Martin's father says. "It's a powerful thing, and if it's misused, the results could be devastating.' " Martin now believes that the machine is a spaceship and that by building another one he and the other children can find their missing families. In reality, the machine is something much odder. Owing as much to dreams as to science fiction, this strange tale can be riveting, but its quirky characters are sometimes difficult to believe in as young adolescents, and its dénouement feels contrived. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 August

Gr 7 Up--Martin Maple lives on a remote island with his father, who spends his time constructing a mysterious machine. When the man doesn't return from his journey to find its final piece, Martin ventures off island and discovers that not only has his father vanished, but so has nearly everyone else in the world. Eventually he comes to Xibalba and meets other eccentric and lonely young people who have survived the unknown event: bossy Darla, who drives a monster truck; cynical Lane, who builds elaborate mobile sculptures; and mysterious Nigel, who claims to talk to animals and is regarded by the inhabitants of Xibalba as a prophet. Convinced that his father's machine can set things to rights, Martin works to reconstruct it while, in true Lord of the Flies fashion, tensions and secrets start to erode the workings of the makeshift society. Slow to build, Starmer's science-fiction fable ultimately becomes gripping and haunting as the characters explore matters of faith, leadership, and responsibility, culminating in a reflective, bittersweet conclusion worthy of Neil Gaiman.--Christi Esterle, Parker Library, CO

[Page 122]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

VOYA Reviews 2011 October
Martin Maple lives on an island with his father where they spend their days tinkering with a machine that Martin's father promises will bring them a better life. When Martin is ten, his father leaves the island, promising to return before his eleventh birthday. Yet, two years pass and no one, not even summer vacationers, returns to the island. Finally, Martin leaves the island to discover Xibalba. Pronounced Shi-balba, Martin discovers a town with forty other young people and learns there is no one else left. On The Day, everyone else vanished. Nigel, the local prophet, explains to Martin that his machine will save them all. Along with the help of several other Forgottens, Martin recreates a giant version on the machine. A series of harrowing events may prevent the group from discovering the true power of the machine, but too much is at stake to give up hope. Aaron Starmer weaves an enchanting tale full of mystery and magic. The novel includes moments of gentle humor that contrast with despair and sadness, creating a perfect balance. Librarians and teachers may question the suitability of some violent scenes for younger audiences; however, the children are well-developed and any reader could easily relate to the complexities of combatting the struggle to be a mature young adult while still craving the simplicity of youth. It is an eloquent mix of Golding's 1954 Lord of the Flies and Wells's 1895 The Time Machine that has the potential to appeal to many readers.--Kaitlin Connors. 4Q 4P J S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.