Five teens experience emotional ruin resulting from the rigid socio-economic caste system that rules their futuristic vertical city—a 1,000-story residential/retail tower—in the year 2118.
The novel’s vivid prologue depicts an unnamed girl falling to her death from the tower’s roof. The novel then begins two months earlier, exploring how these five teens’ decisions led to the tragedy. The suggestion that one of them may even be the victim adds delicious tension, though drawing the uncertainty out for 400-plus pages may be a stretch for some readers. Juggling the large cast of characters and storylines results in early uneven pacing and erratic character development, both of which improve in the novel’s latter portion. The characters’ web of secrets, misunderstandings, jealousies, and unrequited loves may engage patient readers, especially as the novel suggests that technological advances will not necessarily improve human nature. However, the futuristic setting won’t offer enough innovative details to satisfy serious science-fiction fans, instead relying heavily on the predictable narrative of rich girls with emotional problems that money can’t solve. And while there is ethnic diversity—including a character of Iranian descent and another of Korean descent—the conflicts focus primarily on the challenges of romance between members of different economic stations.
Individual elements are appealing, but sometimes
the novel feels like an awfully long setup for a sequel. (Dystopian romance. 14-18)