The Carbon Diaries 2015, by Saci Lloyd

The Carbon Diaries 2015, by Saci Lloyd (2008 UK, 2009 here, Harper Collins, YA, 320 pp)

5 years and 3 months from now, London becomes a dystopia. The collapse of the city starts slowly, with the government imposing Carbon Rationing. It wasn't supposed to happen so suddenly, so fast, but the Great Storm was a warning that steps had to be taken, and now the UK is the European guinea pig for a system where each citizen is allowed only 40% of the energy they consumed in more care-free times.

Laura just wants to plug in her bass and play with her band, attract the attention of the cute boy next door, and get through school...Instead, she watches as her family crumbles under the pressure of their first winter with limited power, and writes the carbon diary entries that tell the story.

"Fri., Jan 2
My parents are in deep denial; they've spent the day on the sofa, staring blindly at the TV like amoebas. So far they've back-to-back watched Dumbo, Mary Poppins, and Judy Garland: A Tribute in Song." (page 2)

No more job for her father, an expert on travel--with an airplane trip costing almost all one's carbon points, there's no point. No gap year in New York for her older sister Kim (a bad thing for Laura, as Kim has turned Evil).

Over the next year, climate fluctuations plunge the UK from one crisis to another. After freezing weather comes drought, after drought comes floods, and gradually civilized life built on fossil fuel consumption collapses, aided and abetted by the new quasi-police state governing London. Laura's personal life is more than a little disastrous too--her family has imploded, she's failing out of school, and the neighbors are watching her family's pig, of whom she has grown fond, with more than a little hunger. The cute boy next door has been shipped out of town by his parents.

By December 2nd, London waits for the next high tide to find out if it will live or die. Laura's dad is badly injured. Their house is flooded. And Kim is lost somewhere in the darkness of the city...

There's a sequel, Carbon Diaries 2017. Will things get better? Will Technology leap in and save the day? Will Laura's band get a chance to go on tour? Does the pig (Larkin) get eaten???? Does London have to be evacuated? I want to know!

But even though I was fascinated by the brilliant, scary premise, and even though I appreciated the way Lloyd leavened disaster with humor and teenage angst, this was not a good book fit for me personally. Laura's family is such a mess in their failure to cope and the misery of their personalities that it was no fun at all riding out the storm with them. Maybe their lack of ingenuity and spirit is more believable than cheerful inventive Swiss Family Robinson-ness, but it's just not as much fun.

Not that it was fun for Laura, either, and, to her credit, she didn't whine much. It was not till near the end, though, that I really felt at all like rooting for any of them. Except the old neighbor guy that Laura tries to adopt to fulfil a community service project, who turns out to be the smartest, most practical person on the block. I liked him!

Climate change has certainly given fans of dystopia reason to rejoice, inspiring as it has numerous books about the disasters that might lie in wait. Carbon Diaries 2015, though, is so immediate in its nightmarish unscience-fictiony future world that it is best read in the cold light of day. So as not to use too much electricity.

Incidentally, here is the most comprehensive list I've seen of modern dystopias. Lots of happy (not) reading!


  1. I was thoroughly underwhelmed by this book too. I felt no sympathy for the family and couldn't really get into it until the end. Someone recommended Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer after they read my non-plussed review and I was completely blown away by it. If you haven't read it, I urge you to do so.

    And may I just say WOW and THANK YOU for posting that list of YA dystopias! It's my favourite genre and I've never come across such a great list!!

  2. I completely agree that Life As We Knew It is a much more gripping read! The second in that series is good too, but not as much fun, in the thinking about what one would do oneself sense that LAWKI inspired in me. I am looking forward to the third very much...


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