What should a mixed-race, autistic, 16-year-old be willing to do to avoid certain death in an apocalyptic hellhole?
A comet's about to strike Earth, and the rich, powerful, or lucky have choices: they can survive in underground shelters for the decades until the planet is once again easily habitable or take to a generation ship headed to deep space. Daughter of a Dutch woman and an Afro-Surinamese man, Denise is none of the above; her family has a spot in a temporary shelter, after which they’ll be stuck in the post-comet wasteland Amsterdam (and much of the planet) will have become. Denise finds temporary refuge in a secret generation ship, but the residents jealously guard their precious resources. She's desperate to find a place on the ship for her family, but on a ship where the two choices are "usefulness or death," she worries they'll never choose her drug-addicted mother—or her autistic self. Meanwhile she seeks her sister, lost in the rubble of Amsterdam. Heroism isn't restricted to Denise, nor is she the only complex, deeply imperfect character to make selfish choices in this unbearable world. It's unsurprising that Duyvis, autistic herself, draws a superbly nuanced portrait of Denise as person (not a collection of pitiable autism tropes or cure narratives), but what makes this a winner is the nerve-wracking adventure.
Life-affirming science fiction with spaceships, optimism in the apocalypse, and a diverse cast that reflects the real world. (Science fiction. 11-15)