In White’s (Windows on the World, 2011, etc.) YA sci-fi adventure, a 13-year-old boy and his father escape a dystopian world by joining a community of tiny people.
Young Zert Cage, in Low City DC in 2083, earns respect by engaging in trash wars with other teens on the streets. This involves the use of garbage-propelling rifles, which gets him arrested for felony vandalism. His widower father, Jack, is already worried about the latest epidemic of Superpox. Jack received his vaccination when it was affordable, but he can’t afford the current price of vaccinating Zert. Now, he fears that his son will be put in “Teen-Jail” for anywhere from six months to 20 years. The only solution, it seems, comes from Jack’s brother-in-law, Marin Bluegar, a celebrity due to his appearances on the adventure holoshow New Worlds. Marin wants Jack and Zert to take part in a top-secret project in which they’ll undergo a process called “minimizing,” which will shrink them to the size of thumbs. They have to leave everything in their old lives behind, but as a result, Zert will get vaccinated and avoid incarceration. Sadly, adjusting to life in a small settlement of shrunken people called Paradise proves difficult, due to its insect-based cuisine and locals who ostracize newcomers. At the center of White’s absorbing story is a teen who doesn’t fit in; for example, Zert’s peers in Paradise were born there, so they’ve never had electricity and don’t believe the boy’s accounts of amazing technology. The author also adds an element of suspense with the constant threat of the community kicking Jack and Zert out, as they only have three weeks to prove their worth. The novel even supplies a touch of mystery, as well; it turns out that Marin may have withheld information regarding the minimizing project, and Paradise residents often mention Abbot, the last outsider they banished. Along the way, White ably details the giant insects of Paradise, both as potential dangers and as ingredients in delicacies such as cricket soup. The occasional animal hybrids are delightful, too—especially a “bassetduck” that “quarks.”
An entertaining and insightful tale that readers of all ages will savor.