Two teens navigate adventure and personal troubles in order to save a future world from deadly disease.
The innocence symbolized by the white lilac flower characterizes 15-year-old Caryn Tobin. Her lilac qualities are genuine but also genetically and socially engineered: The government created and groomed Caryn to fight a global disease, an immense task causing her constant torment. Her conflict lies in the death of her classmate, her society-saving obligation and the mystery surrounding the compound where she trains. Her chance counterpart is 16-year-old Kai Garrett, who’s streetwise and searching for his family. Together they confront Caryn’s likely fatal task of recovering the cure. The tone is mostly grim as the novel details the government’s citizen-tracking, conformist societal pressure and urban blight. Descriptions of objects can be generic; Caryn’s school is simply called the Compound. The bleakness briefly takes a break midway, when the protagonists laugh and smile for what seems like the first time, but the dour tone returns when Caryn confronts her nemesis and Kai tries to sidestep a criminal gang interfering with his pursuit. Alternating narratives build tension, as do plot twists and surprises. The story veers toward social-science fiction as it introduces issues of vaccine safety and longevity, but it ultimately reads like adventure sci-fi, culminating in unadorned criminal activity and commonplace corruption. This route may appeal to a wider teen audience, and it leaves open the door for a sequel, which a villain foreshadows: “Sacrifices like this have to be made to protect the people from themselves.”
Briefly flirts with grim speculative fiction but ultimately alights on adventure.