Lyla is 16, and her only goal is to keep her seat in the Bright—the section of school for the smartest children—and earn the best grades so that she may go on to university one day and become an inventor.
In her society, only the elite get the opportunity to thrive. The rest have to work risky, low-paying jobs. And if they are Marked—tattooed as evidence of committing a crime—their chances of employment and thus survival are greatly diminished. The Marked sometimes go over to the side of the Red Fists, the highly dangerous rebel group that takes advantage of those angry, desperate, and frustrated with the system. Lyla takes a risk and makes a costly mistake, which ends up getting her Marked. She is then offered a shot at redemption, but it comes at quite the price: her second chance at the future she’s always dreamed of means betraying an old friend she may be falling in love with, risking her relationships with her family members, and maybe even more. Interspersed with Lyla’s story are snatches of Pirate Jackman, a graphic-novel zine that reveals both the history and the current state of Lyla’s world. McCaffrey’s society has a Dickensian feel to it, with a heaving, discontented underclass dominated by the barons who control the source of power and the inventors who wield it.
An original, textured page-turner. (Fantasy. 12 & up)