The Girl Who Owned A City by O.T. Nelson

The Girl Who Owned A City by O.T. NelsonThe Girl Who Owned A City by O.T. Nelson
Published: First Avenue Editions (1975), Paperback, 204pg
Genres: Fiction, Sci-fi
Source: Bought


A killing virus has swept the earth, sparing only children through the age of twelve. There is chaos everywhere, even in formely prosperous mid-America. Gangs and fierce armies of children begin to form almost immediately. It would be the same for the children on Grand Avenue but for Lisa, a yen-year-old girl who becomes their leader. Because of Lisa, they have food, even toys, in abundance. And now they can protect themselves from the fierce gangs that roam the neighborhoods. But for how long? Then Lisa conceives the idea of a fortress, a city in which the children could live safely and happily always, and she intends to lead them there. (from Amazon)

Buy on Amazon | Goodreads


Wikipedia says that Mr Nelson intended TGWOAC to basically be a Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy for dummies, which is probably why I hated it so much. Not that I necessarily have anything against objectivism, but from the first page you can tell pretty quickly that a) the book is written badly, b) it’s trying to force a viewpoint across to the reader and c) this would make a great SyFy movie.

So, yeah, I pretty much hated everything. The writing was horrible. It read like everything was exposition, and that’s very tough and very boring to read. Here’s an example, which comes after Lisa is trying to figure out a way to keep the little kids happy with their toys. They don’t want to share, and when she suggested that they pick out one toy each and keep that as a personal toy, they all wanted the same ones. So she introduces the idea of working to earn a new toy, to be kept for their own personal stash. In comes bland Jill, who was pushing the share and share alike plan:

Jill came in from the yard. “What’s going on in here?” She didn’t like the idea that Lisa could change the rules around. Sharing was an important thing! Jill was convinced. She knew it was!


The plot was…okay. The basic ideas were fine but it became trapped in its own web with plotholes and bad characterization. For instance, in the very beginning of the book we’re told that anyone over 12 was killed off by a mysterious plague. But where are their bodies? Lisa breaks into all these houses for supplies but never runs into a corpse. She finds dead cattle, but not dead people. Did they decompose super quickly? What?

And also: water. Where the hell are the kids getting their water from? Before Lisa has a philosophical awakening, all the kids seem to just be running around trying to get edible food before it goes bad. But what are they drinking? Rain water? Lake water? Are there even any lakes where they are? Why would the water system work but the electricity wouldn’t? (I’m sure there was a segment on this in Life After People.)

The plotholes, massive exposition, ridiculous dialogue and boring characters start to pile up pretty quick and I don’t think I would have finished this if it wasn’t so short. I wanted to throw it against the wall quite a few times! The only reason I gave it 1.5 birds was because I sorta liked the whole live-in-a-highschool thing (I’d totally do that if I was in a post-apocalypse world) and I liked how Lisa was tough-as-nails. I also thought it was really interesting how she supported a totalitarian kind of city instead of a democratic one (like in Gone). And I like it when people go all survivalist in cities. That’s fun to read, even when the rest of the book isn’t.

So…total disappointment. Does anyone actually like this or is it just people who like Ayn Rand who do?

Read: September 2009


  1. I just reread this. I LOVED it as a kid. I read it when I was about 8 and my brother was 10. We pretended all the adults died off and we had to survive. We made “alarms” at the bottom of the stairs like Lisa did for the house (marbles that fell when someone triped the string), and well, I can’t remember what else but it seriously was a memorable book and we had lots of fun figuring out how we would survive in the local high school if the adults were all gone. Also, add to the fact that I’m from the Chicago suburbs and my mom even went to Glenbard high school, etc. and I just loved the locale of it. I still think of it if I drive by Glenbard high school.

    Everything you say is right on. If I didn’t have fond memories of it, it would have been pretty unbearable reading. Awful writing, lots of plot loop holes, and a bit of an agenda.

    • I think one of the luckiest things about being a kid is that you tend to focus on the fun parts of a book and don’t even notice the crappy parts like you do when you’re an adult. Like with the Narnia books– when I was a kid, all they were was an amazing fantasy series with SECRET WORLDS inside closets and so on. Lots of fun! But now, when I’m an adult, they’re a giant Christian metaphor and slightly less fun.

      Thanks for commenting! 😀 I don’t normally get good comments on really old posts, so this was exciting.

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