At age 6, Lira was plucked from an orphanage and sent to a duplicate of Earth, with one crucial difference: unlike her current planet, that Earth is not disappearing, along with all the life it contains.
Each person on each Earth has a counterpart on the other, an alternate. Facing extinction, Lira’s world sends children to the other Earth, where they’re hidden and trained to kill and replace their alternates and then, in sleeper cells, assist the stealth invasion. Secreted in rural France, first in underground bunkers then in cottages in the care of a brutal overseer, Lira’s cohort must take pills daily to tolerate extraterrestrial conditions. Trained in combat, taught to mistrust one another, the survivors, like Lira, become “sleepers,” stepping undetected into the family lives of their dead alternates. Despite growing affection for her new grandparents and sister, Lira drugs them to sleep when she carries out her handler’s orders at night. The premise goes largely undeveloped, and key events go undescribed. Living with her new family, Lira never wonders about her original one as she follows orders with glum detachment. Her vague, elegiac musings lack focus. Simple vocabulary and syntax notwithstanding, generic settings, confusing chronology, and inconsistent plot and characterization make this anything but an easy read. Awkward images (“the first whimper of sunrise”)—pathetic fallacies especially (“a group of fireflies sidles past”)—don’t help.
Unsatisfying and not recommended. (Science fiction. 14-18)