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An atmospheric but squishy tale of a thirsty American dictatorship.

Two brothers deal with a totalitarian water emergency in this debut YA sci-fi eco-fantasy.

In a near future of permanent worldwide drought, Oregon has had no rain for a year and suffers drastic shortages of water and food. After the disappearance of their mother, Margaret, a poet, and father, Richard, a scientist working on cloud seeding, 18-year-old Thomas Banks and his 9-year-old brother, Dustin, join the water-patrol, where they hand out tickets for resource-wasting infractions such as failing to recycle urine, growing vegetables indoors, taking baths rather than wiping down with towelettes, and pirating scant renewable electricity. Complicating their duties is Thomas’ girlfriend, Jerusha, whom he can’t bring himself to turn in despite her being a bootlegger with a “water-brewing system” that condenses atmospheric moisture for sale on the black market. For no compelling reason, Thomas, Jerusha, and Dustin set out on a car trip to California through a desiccated landscape scoured by dust storms and brutal water cops. Along the road, they meet a car repairman with information about Richard and join a group of “Leftovers,” misfits who break the rules by digging wells, growing produce, and drinking goat milk. Alas, the police raid their idyllic camp and haul Thomas and Dustin to a “rehabilitation facility” for a baffling (and somewhat tiresome) coercive regimen: They are plied with fresh water and rare delicacies like pizza and orange juice while starving inmates watch; then their food and water are cut off; then a guard threatens to torture Dustin unless Thomas divulges secrets from Richard’s weather research. Zerndt’s dystopian yarn gives a sinister twist to environmental dogmas, making sustainability slogans like “Go Green 4 Life” the rhetorical facade of an Orwellian police state. But like many such novels, this hit-and-miss book suffers from haphazard plotting and an imagined society that makes little sense except to adolescents who think the adult world is nothing but an arbitrary power play. Thomas and Jerusha spend much time on quasi-parental fretting over Dustin’s emotional well-being, which often slows the narrative to a crawl. Still, the author’s prose is well-crafted and evocative—“The hills look like shriveled up nut-sacks, and I can barely see what’s left of the beach with all the dust tornadoeing around”—and her characters are intriguing enough to make readers sympathize with their parched predicament.

An atmospheric but squishy tale of a thirsty American dictatorship.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4782-0915-7

Page Count: 266

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2018

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The format of this taut and moving drama forcefully regulates the pacing; breathless, edge-of-the-seat courtroom scenes...

In a riveting novel from Myers (At Her Majesty’s Request, 1999, etc.), a teenager who dreams of being a filmmaker writes the story of his trial for felony murder in the form of a movie script, with journal entries after each day’s action.

Steve is accused of being an accomplice in the robbery and murder of a drug store owner. As he goes through his trial, returning each night to a prison where most nights he can hear other inmates being beaten and raped, he reviews the events leading to this point in his life. Although Steve is eventually acquitted, Myers leaves it up to readers to decide for themselves on his protagonist’s guilt or innocence.

The format of this taut and moving drama forcefully regulates the pacing; breathless, edge-of-the-seat courtroom scenes written entirely in dialogue alternate with thoughtful, introspective journal entries that offer a sense of Steve’s terror and confusion, and that deftly demonstrate Myers’s point: the road from innocence to trouble is comprised of small, almost invisible steps, each involving an experience in which a “positive moral decision” was not made. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 31, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-028077-8

Page Count: 280

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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