SHIP BREAKER

A gritty teen betrays his father and flees his grim existence in a post–global-warming Gulf Coast village to protect a young woman he barely knows in this gripping futuristic thriller. Fifteen-year-old Nailer works on the “light crew” as a ship breaker, salvaging metals from abandoned oil tankers. Nailer’s vicious father routinely beats him. In this violent world where people do anything for money, Nailer’s future seems bleak until he discovers Nina, the wealthy, attractive survivor of a shipwreck. Rather than kill Nina and steal the salvage, Nailer opts to save her, triggering a harrowing journey to the submerged cities of Orleans to find people loyal to Nina. As Nailer experiences brutal betrayals, he relies on his wits and learns the people worth calling family are the ones who “[cover] your back.... Everything else [is] just so much smoke and lies.” In Bacigalupi’s defiled, depressing landscape populated by mercenary humans and mechanical dog-men, Nailer’s loyalty offers hope. Told in the third person, this stark, surreal story sends an alarm to heed the warning signs of climate change or suffer a similar fate. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-316-05621-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2010

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Some quality worldbuilding, but the story only inches along.

UNRAVEL ME

Juliette, the girl with the deadly touch, struggles to fit in with the resistance movement that saved her at the end of Shatter Me (2011).

In training to participate in an inevitable war against the Reestablishment, Juliette Ferrars should feel at home at Omega Point. In addition to no longer being a prisoner, she is surrounded by other people with supernatural gifts. Compassionate Castle tries to help her master her abilities, and Kenji tries to help her fit in, but the devastating nature of Juliette’s power hampers her efforts. Additionally, Adam is acting strangely—in large part because of his work with Castle to determine why he is able to touch Juliette safely—which causes difficulties in their relationship. Soon some of her new comrades are abducted while on patrol by soldiers led by Warner’s father, who demands a meeting with Juliette. The resistance is able to come away from the meeting with a hostage, Warner, who resumes his part in the established love triangle. Too much of the plot relies on Juliette’s withholding of important information and revelations, even against her own judgment. The bloated relationship drama takes priority over the captive resistance members in the buildup to the climax, which finally brings action before setting up the next novel.

Some quality worldbuilding, but the story only inches along. (Science fiction. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-208553-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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