A 15-year-old girl supports herself with a retail job as her close-to-reality dystopia spirals into hilariously surreal (yet tragic) chaos.
Zoë Zindleman doesn't mind school and enjoys math (the foundation of responsible consumer citizenship). One day her weepy, drunken teacher is interrupted by the small-government Governor's shocking announcement: schools are privatized, all students are graduated, and everyone gets an e-tificate of graduation and a job referral. Many students are pipelined straight from the classroom to prison, but lucky Zoë is given two choices: AllMART or Q-MART. Thank goodness for the job, because Zoë's beloved AnnaMom comes home with news of her own: she's off to hunt for a job, leaving Zoë to fend for herself in their empty cul-de-sac. As the quirky humor dissolves into the baffling unrealities of loneliness and commerce, Zoë moves into an abandoned mall taken over by other unwanted children all looking out for one another. As a new AllMART trainee, Zoë—or Zero, according to her name badge—performs menial, unending, and Kafkaesque work, always with a smile: remember, a “smile is AllMART’s welcome mat”! Subtle callbacks to Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles enhance the mood of eerie devastation for those who catch the references but don't detract for those who don't. Cheery commercial scripts, news transcripts, and other ephemera of this plastic society punctuate Zoë’s narration, bearing witness to her grim environment, which, heartbreakingly, has no defeatable villain.
A gorgeous and gut-wrenchingly familiar depiction of the entropic fragmentation of society. (Science fiction. 13-17)