Rosi’s life falls from idyllic to devastating when she and her friends are returned to their biological parents.
In Fredtown, everyone lives by utopian principles of good citizenship, such as, “You use your words and your wits and you settle disputes peaceably.” Twelve-year-old Rosi, her little brother, Bobo, and the dozens of other Fredtown children all know that the Fred-parents are not their real parents—and that it’s too dangerous to go home. Life is almost perfect, until the day the entire population of children is put on a plane, leaving the Fred-parents to live with their own. Their hometown, achingly poor, falling apart, and crime-ridden, is the terrifying opposite of clean and tidy Fredtown. In a setup bound to stir feelings in adopted readers, Rosi and Bobo’s birth parents are mean; the father is blind and maimed, the mother’s face is a ruin of sadness and rage. When Rosi is beaten by a crowd of adults in the outdoor market, it becomes clear that both the biological parents and the Fred-parents are harboring terrible secrets that are somehow connected to eye color: Rosi’s and their birth mother’s are green, while Bobo’s and their birth father’s are brown. This chiller is locked-in riveting, written in the voice of the brave but naïve Rosi. Using the arbitrary distinction between eye colors, Haddix brilliantly scrutinizes racial violence without mentioning physical characteristics beyond eyes and nose.
This conversation-starting first in a series is a penetrating science-fiction thriller that adroitly explores the issue of prejudice. (Science fiction. 11-14)