A debut YA novel that follows the exploits of a young, superpowerful Genius as an ancient conflict between Eastern and Western Geniuses comes to a head.
In this novel’s world, “Geniuses” are people whose IQs measure in the thousands. They can communicate telepathically with other Geniuses, use energy to affect the nervous systems of other beings, and communicate with animals. In rare cases, they can even levitate, move objects telekinetically or see the future. In the Western Geniuses’ hierarchy, Roxanne Reynolds’ father, Roger, plays a prominent role. In the West, they emphasize the importance of noninterference in the lives of non-Geniuses, whom they call “Ordinaries.” The Eastern Geniuses, on the other hand, believe in a far more autocratic society; in their opinion, Ordinariescan’t be trusted to govern themselves. However, Roxanne, a high school junior, is more concerned about boys and her friends. Enter Andor Lysenko, a transfer student from the Eastern European country of Slavistan. Roxanne’s parents worry about Andor’s connections with the leaders of the Eastern Geniuses, but Roxanne feels an immediate connection with him. Meanwhile, conflicts between the two clans escalate, including an attack on Roxanne and Andor’s school. Given the Geniuses’ superior knowledge and long life spans, it’s unsurprising that debut author Flanzraich engagingly sprinkles their speech with references to art, history and classic literature. However, many of these references would have been more effective if they weren’t explained quite so explicitly. A passing reference to the second circle of hell in Dante’s Inferno, for example, may inspire a younger reader to read that text, but a pedantic description of each panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights can be read as talking down to the many adults who enjoy reading YA literature. More troubling is the division of the world into “Western” and “Eastern,” with the value systems heavily prejudiced in the West’s favor. Furthermore, the plot revelation that Hitler and Stalin were little more than pawns in the hands of the Eastern Geniuses trivializes very real history by subjugating it to the whims of superbeings.
An enjoyable, if somewhat uneven, addition to the YA shelf.