Strange things are afoot at an elite school for artistic geniuses that is also the setting for a reality television show.
On the day of the cuts, the 100 new sophomores at the Forge School will be reduced to 50, based on each student’s popularity with the Forge Show’s audience. Aspiring filmmaker Rosie needs the Forge School, as she hails from the “poorest zip code in the country,” where she’s “on the pre-prison track.” Unfortunately for her, though, Rosie ranks in the 90s with only hours to garner the popularity to make the huge jump into the top 50 to stay, but as someone who would rather be behind cameras than in front of them, Rosie’s not a natural. Luckily for her, a chance run-in with a handsome, Welsh-accented teenager employed by the school revitalizes her campaign to stay. But what happens when the cameras are turned off—at night, while the students get their compulsory, dreamless 12 hours of sleep—gives Rosie real cause to worry. Either students are being taken for mysterious purposes in their sleep and returned without ever knowing what’s happened, or Rosie’s having a mental breakdown. The cameras and jockeying for position add an interesting dynamic to cerebral Rosie’s friendships, though the worldbuilding’s occasionally unclear. O’Brien (Promised, 2013, etc.) gracefully tackles class issues without slowing her mystery. The sudden cliffhanger will polarize readers.
A fast, satisfying psychological thriller. (Thriller. 12 & up)