A girl realizes her suburban, corporate-run utopia has dark underpinnings.
Twelve-year-old Mori lives on a quaint cul-de-sac west of Boston, in a Kritopia (a utopia sponsored by the Krita Corp.), one of several around the world. She and her friends are partly free-range—they can take off on their bikes anytime—but everyone wears a nonremovable “watchu,” which tells time but also watches its wearer. At age 13, kids announce their “latency”—an inner skill that will be surgically released—and find out whether they’re “natural” (made from their parents’ DNA) or “designed” (made from cloned or modified DNA). Into this idyllic neighborhood comes new girl Ilana, who’s gorgeous and strong but doesn’t quite fit in. Ilana pauses oddly before answering questions, and unlike Mori, whose heritage is Japanese and Scottish, brown-skinned, chestnut-haired, green-eyed Ilana knows of no heritage. This society’s secrets aren’t gentle, but the text reveals them gently. The pacing is cautious—like Mori herself, though she vaguely remembers having been braver in the past. As Mori and the others break a huge rule, walking along abandoned train tracks toward the rough and scary city to save a friend’s life, readers will eagerly await the next installment.
Less stark than The Giver (1993), this welcome addition to the dystopic utopia genre is a young cousin of Ally Condie’s Matched (2010) and Mary Pearson’s The Adoration of Jenna Fox (2008). (Science fiction. 9-12)