While We Run by Karen Healey continues the story of Tegan and Abdi. However, unlike the first book which at least tried to get readers to think about issues such as environment, immigration, race, gender, etc. this second book is really just an adventure story following the lines of some action movie. In While We Run, Tegan has turned herself in to save Marie, her guardian, and she and Abdi were taken by the government who are using them for their own agenda. The government’s agenda is to use Tegan and Abdi as PR for finishing the Ark project, by getting them to present the government’s propaganda and encourage wealthy donors to sign up to undergo the cryogenic process to fund the Ark. Tegan and Abdi each have handlers who use psychological and physical torture to make the pair do what the government wants, the torture includes having to watch the other person get punished if they rebel. This manipulation causes the former lovebirds to sometimes hate the other person who is holding out.
This second story is told from Abdi’s viewpoint, unlike the first book which was Tegan’s story. Also, gone are the chapter headings which were the titles of Beatle songs. In fact, since the pair is forced to perform Beatles songs at donor events, it has twisted their love for the music into something dark. While the rich donors seem to fall for the pair’s acting, some Australians suspect that they two are being forced by the government and there is a Save Tegan movement. However, it is not a united effort but fractured groups each with their own agenda who find it convenient to make Tegan their figurehead without her consent or endorsement. Not that either Tegan or Abdi know much about these groups or indeed what has been happening in the outside world as they are not allowed any news or contact with the outside world. Abdi is in such despair that he contemplates a rebellion that would basically be the same as killing himself as the odds are hopeless.
Abdi has forgotten their friends, friends with contacts and unique skills, who launch a plan to break them out. As the saying goes, “it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire” as the pair discovers that in some ways they have traded one master for another as two of the factions want to keep the pair close for their own purposes and Tegan and Abdi don’t know how much they can trust their rescuers. They can trust their old friends Joph and Bethari though, who agree to run from their so-called liberators, but not without the drama of a dangerous bush fire, the enemy closing in, etc. This is what I didn’t like about this story, that is was much are chases and getaways, then about the Australia of the future and its problems. It really didn’t feel much like a dystopian or apocalyptic book and was more about the personal story of the friends than facing down the bigger issues of their society. Unusually, this was a two book series and not a trilogy which most are these days; however I am glad that the author chose to stop with just the two as the story had already significantly declined after the first book.