Monday, July 15, 2013

Day 3 of the Apocalypse! Phoebe North, author of Starglass

In my early days on GoodReads (almost three years ago), when I was still too shy to review or participate in discussions, Phoebe North was one of the few people I followed and admired from afar and she inspires admiration to this day. As a reviewer, she is intelligent, insightful and entirely trustworthy, and I'm quite confident she's all those things as an author, too. Her debut YA Sci-Fi novel, STARGLASS, is set to be released on July 23rd 2013. My copy has been pre-ordered for months. If you still haven't pre-ordered yours, enter to win a signed copy at the end of this post.

Why My Favorite Apocalypse Happened in New Zealand

I recently heard of a new YA dystopian novel that’s been optioned for film: Chris Weitz’s The Young World. But the premise—featuring a cataclysmic death that kills everyone over the age of 21—brought to mind a small screen series, one that’s been off the air since 2003 but which never the less remains one of my favorite works of young adult fiction.
I think I have TVTropes to blame; I was in graduate school and wasting way too much time on the site, obsessively reading about young adult novels that I’d loved when I was twelve, ostensibly as research for my coursework in children’s literature when I stumbled upon a description for a New Zealand TV show that I had missed when it first aired—what with being a college student living in the States at the time. It was called The Tribe and was described by my fellow tropers as follows:
The Tribe ran five seasons (1999-2003). It was a New Zealand-produced Cozy Catastrophe/Teen Soap Opera set Twenty Minutes into the Future, after an apocalyptic virus that wipes out the world's adult population, leaving the kids and teens to inherit an unnamed city that is rapidly degenerating into a post-apocalyptic urban wasteland.
The main characters are the Mall Rats, a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits who took up residence in an abandoned shopping mall. Over the series, the Mall Rats attempt to restore order to a chaotic world by reintroducing civilized functions like money and democratic elections. The Mall Rats face external and internal conflict with other tribes and between their own members, who don't always see eye to eye.
The first series was notably darker in tone than later series, and more survivalist-oriented. The first season also had very few of the "fantastic" elements that came to dominate later seasons, such as virtual reality, religious cults, insanely well-disciplined and organized antagonist tribes, and mysticism. The show dealt with many of the typical elements of both a Teen Drama with a setting that was part Scavenger World and part Cozy Catastrophe, including problems like pregnancy and bulimia. It also mostly averted Dawson Casting.
Cozy catastrophe? Teens living in a mall? I knew I had to watch it, and rushed to the youtubes:

I was . . . a bit surprised by what I found. For one thing, the theme song was terrible. I had expected corny acting and low production values—I’m a fan of the original Degrassi, after all. But the show itself was just strange: it was dark and grainy, and some of the dystopian aspects were downright frightening.
But the episodes were short and it was easy to tear through them. And as I did, I began to get addicted.
What most impresses me about The Tribe, even now, is how honest a depiction of teenagers it quickly became. For one thing, the kids in The Tribe are wicked smart: they wrestle with notion of civilization building, laws, and justice in a world without adults. They figure out how to harness natural resources, how to lead their fellow kids, and how to reach consensus. But they’re also real, authentic teenagers, quite unlike anything you see on American TV.
For example, living in a world without grown-ups means that they let their creativity go wild; they smear their faces with make-up, dye their hair, and wear crazy clothes. To some, these acts of rebellion might seem strange in a world without adults to rebel against. But at the same time, it makes sense: one reason teenagers experiment with crazy clothes and hair is because it’s a way to show ownership of your body, to take control of yourself in a world where so much lies beyond your control. Though the teens of The Tribe don’t have adults to rebel against, their plague-gutted and chaotic world often seems uncontrollable to them.
The Mall Rats act authentically adolescent in other ways, too. For example, the show has often been compared to a soap opera due to the romantic elements. In fact, several of these relationships result in teenage pregnancies. This seems, to me, to be a very natural consequence of living in a world without adult supervision or, say, condoms. Other aspects of adolescent life likewise don’t stop because of the apocalypse: teens continue to grapple with problems of fitting in, bullying, grief, questions about faith and mortality. All set against a fantastic back-drop.
Though the show would later spiral out into less believable plotlines (with the virtual-reality obsessed Technos tribe taking over the city), at its peak The Tribe remains one of the finest works of YA apocalyptica to ever hit the small screen. Despite its occasionally campy nature and low production values, it was honest and very real. It treated its young characters like fully fledged people--showing that teens are capable of humanity even at the end of the world.

Phoebe North received an MFA in poetry at the University of Florida. She lives with her husband and cat in New York State. Visit her at

Phoebe has generously offered to send out a signed copy of Starglass to one lucky winner. Just enter the Rafflecopter below and keep your fingers crossed. This giveaway is open to US residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. The Tribe sounds right up my alley -- I might have to check it out! I don't mind campy, as long as the characters are realistic.

  2. Sounds super interesting! Kind of Lord of the Flies-ish. There's just something fascinating about watching human nature in a post-apocalyptic situation, and I think watching teenagers struggle with creating laws and trying to organize themselves would be particularly intriguing. Thanks for sharing this one Phoebe!

  3. Love the cover for Starglass. Thanks for the giveaway!

    this show definitely sounds interesting. I think I'd enjoy the beginning of the series when it's not as crazy with plot-lines, etc. I do like shows from other countries too!!!

  4. This is such an interesting concept!! Also, the tribe sounds like a great series. I wish there were more shows like this one!!

  5. I have never heard of the show either but it does sound really interesting!

  6. I haven't heard of The Tribe but after reading Starglass, I have to say the story is filled with insights. It's a story that offers us a platform to think. And the writing is beautiful! I hope you'll be reading the book soon :)

  7. I'm so excited for Starglass! I first heard about when I was reading The Intergalactic Academy blog (sad that it's gone), but the blog quality was certainly high enough that i know Starglass will be amazing!


  8. OMG! The Tribe! I remember that show, wow it was really popular here. Do you remember it Maja? I really enjoyed it and it was probably the first TV show that I was addicted to. Great post! :)

  9. Been looking forward to Starglass forever, it seems!

  10. Hm... you have me curious about the Tribe only because you say the kids are wicked smart. I don't like it when they dumb it down for YA. I'm very curious about Starglass. Must add it to my wishlist!

  11. I have never heard of The Tribe sounds like an interesting little show especially for the time period. A dystopian well ahead of its time. I am curious about Phoebe's book, I will eagerly be waiting for your review, Maja.

  12. The Tribe's new to me. I love New Zealand so I'll have to look into that. This book sounds really interesting. I look forard to reading Starglass :)

  13. Sounds like an interesting show. The premise kind of reminds me of Lord of the Flies, which I enjoyed back when I had to read it in high school.

  14. Ha! I'm totally going to watch the rest of The Tribe! And the book sounds really interesting.. Great post, Maja & Phoebe.

  15. I went to just listen to the theme song and get an idea of the show and was totally sucked in! Now I want to watch more of it! I love these kinds of shows!
    Starglass sounds great!

  16. Wow, I love uncovering little TV gems like this. I have a feeling I'm going to be watching this series now. I agree with Jenny, it's definitely got a bit of a Lord of the Flies feel, maybe with a bit of Peter Pan and the lost boys thrown in. I think Rufio especially would fit right into this crew. :-) Thanks for sharing!

  17. Now this sounds great! I haven't heard of The Tribe before (I can't actually even remember the early noughties now!) but I'm pretty sure it's the sort of show I'd enjoy. And I agree about Phoebe North, Maja. I still follow her reviews and can't wait to read Starglass. Thanks for sharing. :)

  18. Now I want to watch the Tribe, you have me so curious. I love the cover of Starglass and look forward to reading it!


  20. Wow, I've never heard of The Tribe either. I really want to watch it now, but I never have time to watch shows :( I'm definitely marking it, so maybe I can come back to it. Thanks for the giveaway of Starglass :)

  21. HA! I was addicted to The Tribe, when I was in college/when it aired (the first 3 seasons, anyway....then the writing got too crappy for me to stand). It sucks you in! I am tickled pink that anyone else over here in the States knows of it, and kudos to you for inspiring other folks to watch it.

    (also, Bray sucks and Lex rules. *ahem*)

    1. WORD. Except that time that Lex got rapey. That was weird.

  22. OMG!!!! YAY!!!! I'm SO looking forward to reading this one! And it's signed aaahhhh! :) Thank you thank you so much for this amazing giveaway!!! The Tribe sounds good! I'm going to start watching this one today! I love that its in a post-apocalypse world. It sounds awesome!!

  23. This sounds like a really cool book and I will have to look up The Tribe.

  24. Been looking forward to this one. happy release day, Phoebe!

  25. The Tribe sounds interesting. I'm going check Netflix and Hulu to see if they have it and put it in my queue.

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