The class book review: The Secret Runners of New York

The writing is poor, and there are dubious references to body hair – but some students couldn't put this book down

Ros Harding

Tes class book review: The Secret Runners of New York by Matthew Reilly

The Secret Runners of New York

Author: Matthew Reilly
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Details: paperback, £7.99, 352 pages
ISBN: 978-1471407956

Teacher review

The premise of this book sounds great: “If you knew the truth about the future, would you try to change it?”

In a prestigious school on New York’s Upper East Side, twins Skye (Blue) and Red find themselves drawn into a secret society, whose members can travel through a portal into the future. Through this, they discover that rumours about a global disaster are true, and that most of humankind is going to be wiped out.

I wanted to enjoy this book. It had the potential to be an exciting, fun thriller. But, quite simply, the writing is too bad to pull it off. It takes far too long to get going, as Reilly is so invested in the lives of the elite at the school that he forgets about actually moving the plot along. The characters are mostly one-dimensional, and the relationship between the twins (which turns out to be crucial to the plot) is almost non-existent. This meant that I didn’t care about or believe in the final part of the book. 

There were also some moments that made me cringe. A comment about a girl being bullied because she didn’t wax personal areas (although Reilly does not shy away from using cruder language) is not acceptable in a book for young people, especially when the criticism (if not the bullying) is condoned. There is also a lot of stigmatising of mental illness: in the later parts of the books, people with mental illnesses are described almost as animals.

However, I will admit that the third quarter of the book was exciting. Once I got past the tedium of the debutante balls, I did want to finish the book. However, if I hadn’t been reading it to review, I would have given up after the first few chapters. 

The book may go down well with many teenagers – it won’t stand up to a second reading, but as a bit of mindless escapism it could work well.

Ros Harding is head librarian at The King’s School in Chester

Pupil reviews

‘I stayed up until 3am to finish it’

To say I am interested in the idea of this book would be an understatement. I am intrigued by the explanation of the end of the world – gamma cloud – and I understood it well, even though I am not the best at scientific stuff. 

The different fonts when they are in the flip-side New York is a nice touch, and the different chapters of the book made it easier to digest. It was a real page-turner and I stayed up until 3am to finish it. The suspense towards the end had me scared and I did have to put it down for a while so I didn’t get too scared. Also, the book was tied up very nicely at the end, but I would love to see a sequel on Red and the life he had, because I would love to hear more of what he went through.

However, there are a few critiques I have. I found the main character, Skye, extremely unlikable throughout the whole book. I almost cringed at some of the things she said, and also at her personality in general. But the book was enjoyable, and I loved reading it.

Sienna Lewis, Year 9    

‘Slow-paced to begin with’

I thought this book was quite slow-paced to begin with, and I didn’t find it very interesting at first. 

As the book went on, I thought it got better, but I did find that the whole point of who survived and who didn’t was confusing and quite unfair. However, in the last quarter of the book it got much better, and you wanted to read on, and you were interested in how it ended. 

Overall, I think the book was OK, but there were some elements of the overall plot I wasn’t too sure about. But I think that I would recommend the book to people, as it was interesting to read. 

Annabel Kirk, Year 9

‘The concept was interesting and exciting’

I really enjoyed this book. I thought that the concept was interesting and exciting. I think the best part of it was the way the author had created two different cities of New York: one in the actual world, and one in the future. Most importantly, I didn’t get confused between the two worlds. 

Moreover, I really liked the idea of the gamma radiation cloud, since it is not unrealistic sci-fi that would never happen. 

However, reaching the end of the book, it became a bit too unnecessarily graphic and over-the-top. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the book, and I thought it was a real page-turner. Once I started the book, I couldn’t put it down.

Olivia Whorrall-Campbell, Year 9

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Ros Harding

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