I almost gave up on The Chaos a few chapters in because, between the somewhat-clunky sections about race and disability and references to what the kids seem to like these days (MyFace?), I felt like the book was putting the Y in YA, and wasn’t sure I could answer the question, “why would an adult want to read this?”
I’m glad that I stuck with it, however, because The Chaos, by Nalo Hopkinson, goes in some very strange, interesting directions, all due to “The Chaos” itself, which is basically a mysterious, vaguely-Apocalyptic event that begins with a volcano shooting up through Lake Ontario. Up to that point, we know that our protagonist, the sixteen-year-old Scotch, has strange visions of smiling heads bouncing around and a rash she can’t explain, but until the world goes crazy, her crazy exists in a fairly standard high school story. When everything does go bananas, however, that’s when things get engaging.
The afterschool-special tone about race that that book takes on in the beginning transforms into something far more insightful and curious; Scotch, who struggles with being mixed-race, has to literally struggle with the dark, scary figures of the Jamaican folklore she grew up with. What began with Racial Understanding 101 becomes so complex, with layers of imagery and meaning, that I feel like I have to read the book again to truly figure it out. There’s order in The Chaos, and readers of any age will want to find it.