In this sequel to Awaken (2011), Maddie’s rebellion against digital school and social networking run amok land her in a detention center where detainees are conditioned to fear physical contact and transformed into pliant consumers content to conduct their lives online.
In 2060, Americans live an increasingly virtual existence (think "Half-Life"). Kids attend school from the safety of their bedrooms. Nightclub partygoers dance and interact through sophisticated digital avatars. Online funerals console the bereaved through forums and photos, rather than the warmth of human contact. Incarcerated, Maddie stubbornly fights the powerful conditioning. She’s supported by allies new and old, especially charismatic rebel Justin, her romantic and political partner in the fight to experience the sensory world directly. Over time, Maddie grows weaker; continued resistance results in an ever-longer sentence that she’s unlikely to survive. Independent, courageous and immensely likable, Maddie is the heart of this story. Human contact unmediated by sterile, digitized perfection is messy, imperfect and even dangerous, but she’s willing to pay the price. If Kacvinsky’s wider worldbuilding remains sketchy, with frustratingly few panoramic shots of the culture at large, there are compensations. Seen in close-up, Maddie’s sensuous, suspenseful voyage of discovery offers an intense, emotionally charged snapshot of the future that’s rare in science fiction. Lyrical, provocative, passionate and thought-provoking. (Science fiction/romance. 12 & up)