Billed as "a novel of tomorrow," this account of a privileged teenager who returns from a goodwill trip in Haiti to a changed America disappoints.
In the aftermath of a presidential assassination, the American People's Party has taken over the government, enforcing strict new security measures. Without food or cash and unable to reach her parents, Radley finally arrives in Brattleboro, Vt., to find her home empty. Holding out hope that she'll rejoin her parents, Radley heads off to Quebec on foot. She meets a taciturn girl named Celia, and the two cross the border together. They settle into an abandoned schoolhouse, relying on a benefactor Radley dubs "Our Lady of the Barn." The sinister political backdrop gets short shrift, as the storyline plays out like a tone poem, with the bulk of the novel built around the author's photographs of the countryside. Implausibilities interrupt the placid pacing of the prose: Radley's methodical search of the house before getting food from the pantry, despite days of starvation; her utter reluctance to communicate with others out of paranoia that she'll be arrested; restaurant Dumpsters full of food though no one seems to be about.
Hesse offers some of her best in lavish descriptions of nature and mood, all overlaid with a social message, but this might be of more interest to adults than to teens. (Speculative fiction. 14 & up)