Is this a post-apocalypse dystopia or a story about a cult? That’s the question facing middle-grade readers in this suspense puzzler.
Eider can’t forget her imagined vision of her little sister, Robin, even though Teacher and everyone else insist that Robin never existed. Brown-skinned Eider and several other children of diverse races live in a desert compound that Teacher says is the last place left after the end of the world, but Eider keeps finding interesting artifacts from Before and can’t stop herself from secretly sneaking out of the compound and reading her hidden storybook. Even though all the children know that they will receive severe punishment if they’re caught disobeying, all have hidden their own forbidden objects. After Teacher takes Eider out to look at the stagnant, dead sea, the 12-year-old decides to concentrate on learning the Extrasensory exercises Teacher seems so intent on teaching to the children. But when Eider begins to suspect that Teacher also might be hiding something, she decides to escape and try to find a real town. Is that even possible, or has the world truly ended? Hubbard keeps pages turning with careful pacing of the revelations about Eider’s world and ever increasing clues that Teacher may not be telling the truth. Even as readers and Eider begin to question Teacher’s reality, however, the narrative maintains its tight focus on Eider’s experience.
A claustrophobic survival tale that will keep readers guessing. (Thriller. 10-14)