This review copy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
The Big Wheel, first novel in the Wheel trilogy by Susan Larned Womble, is a YA coming of age story about human trafficking and equality.
Fifteen-year-old Paisley lives with her mother and sister on their dilapidated farm in Germany. They have been confined there for as long as Paisley can remember, after a virus swept across the world and everything went to chaos. Now, the ruthless mercenaries (mercs) have taken over and round up surviving humans to be traded and sold like animals. When Paisley’s mother and sister are taken and she is left behind, she must team up with Colt, a neighboring farm boy, and Riley, a teenage merc, to rescue them.
Paisley and Colt masquerade as brother and sister and are caught up in the politics of the post-virus world. The royal family and the mercs are in charge, but they might have hope in the American ambassador, the Queen’s husband who is still searching for a cure to the virus.
Paisley is feisty and spunky, but also rather immature at the beginning of the book. She’s been so sheltered all her life. But as the book progresses, I enjoyed watching her grow. She has a sweet relationship with her older sister Gretel, and also develops great friendships with Colt, Riley, and the “undesirables” she meets along the way. However, not many of the supporting characters are as well developed as Paisley. This could mean they’re given larger roles in the next books. Also, at times the themes of humanity and equality were a bit too explicit.
I’d definitely give this novel points for an unpredictable twist toward the end. The conflict is not entirely resolved when the book concludes, but the cliffhanger hints at escalating conflict in books 2 and 3, as Paisley and her friends fight to take back over the world from the corrupt King and his mercenaries.