After a wrongful conviction, a terrified teen must fight for survival on a lethal reality show in McNeil’s (I’m Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl, 2016, etc.) latest thriller.
In a distressingly familiar world where a reality star has been elected president and the penal system has been outsourced to a twisted producer called The Postman, “justice” is now meted out via a Survivor-esque app. Criminals are sent to Alcatraz 2.0, an island near San Francisco, where they are executed in the most entertaining ways possible by professional killers. When Latina teen Dee Guerrera is convicted of her stepsister’s murder after a bogus trial, she refuses to be executed for a crime she didn’t commit just to boost ratings. She soon discovers that she is not the only innocent person on the island, but as the teens begin to build alliances, The Postman’s rules seem to change—and not in their favor. This laudable and campy attempt at YA’s answer to Black Mirror throws a few too many things into the mix. Critiques of capital punishment, privatized prisons, and a populace voluntarily subjugated by social media—it’s so much, so fast that the narrative relies on breakneck pacing and scenes of gruesome and innovative violence to move the plot forward. With inconsistent and incohesive character development, this is one for action and annihilation fans.
Cringes on every page—many of them good. (Thriller. 14-18)