In the year 2335, a 13-year-old Earth girl with Chinese heritage begins a new life on Mars.
Just arrived from Earth, Belle Song and her family become farmers on Mars, which has been terraformed to accommodate agriculture. Belle is resilient and refreshingly headstrong, and she finds all manner of trouble and adventure while trying to acclimate to her new world. She meets Lucas, the abrasive bispecies (human/Sulux) boy with light purple skin from the farm next door, and Ta’al, a Nabian girl with even stranger features that are “definitely not human.” The story traces Belle’s adjustment over the course of a year. On the surface, Collins crafts a Martian action-adventure story, complete with water raiders, hybrid animals, and trips to the bustling capital city. Underlying themes of racial acceptance and environmental impact are inescapably heavy-handed, although doled out with restraint, mostly through Belle’s insistence that Lucas come to accept Ta’al even though the Sulux and Nabians are prejudiced against each other. Given the entertaining third-person narration, Belle’s interspersed journal entries seem unnecessary, but Tikulin’s illustrations offer rich ambiance and work beautifully with the graphic design. An opening gallery brings the Song family and their friends to life, and each part of Belle’s journey is prefaced with superb illustrations of exploits to come.
A commendable effort that embeds racial tension, geopolitics, and environmental issues in an action-packed Martian adventure. (glossary) (Science fiction. 11-14)