TOXIC by Lydia Kang


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In Kang’s (The Impossible Girl, 2018, etc.) YA sci-fi novel, a bioengineered girl and a boy sent into space to die find each other on an abandoned, sentient ship—along with a lot more than they bargained for.

Hana, a young woman with genetic enhancements that give her advanced abilities, wakes after a week of chemically induced sleep to find herself alone. Hidden away in the private chambers of her “Mother,” no one knows of her existence except her creator and the sentient ship, called Cyclo. But when Hana asked where her mother is, Cyclo just tells her that her “mother is not here.” Venturing out of her room for the first time since she was born, Hana discovers that the rest of the ship is completely empty, the crew having evacuated with no plan to return. Meanwhile, a young man named Fenn is on a small ship with a small team, heading toward Cyclo to figure out why the ship is dying and what the company in charge can do to ensure that future sentient spacecraft live longer. There may be no return for those onboard when Cyclo finally fails, but if Fenn’s team manages to get enough information recorded, his ailing sister will receive enough money for necessary medical treatment. Finding Hana onboard is shocking enough—but then it’s revealed that someone on Fenn’s team may be a killer. Kang delivers a novel with a unique premise and solid storytelling, which makes it stand out in a sea of similar YA titles. Kang’s version of a sentient ship, for instance—one that communicates mainly through the use of colors on displays—is a beautifully original creation; Hana’s genetic enhancements, among other things, helpfully allow her to “see beyond the color spectrum that others can.” The overarching plot offers readers a compelling mix of romance and horror, and it puts a new spin on the idea of star-crossed lovers. The pacing of the story is steady throughout, with enough momentum to keep readers consistently engaged.

Recommended futuristic fiction with a twist.

Pub Date: Nov. 6th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-64063-424-4
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2019


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