In a dystopian future, Kivali Kerwin, nicknamed Lizard, is sent to prepare for adulthood at a government-run CropCamp.
Lizard's adoptive family has always resisted authority, but attending camp as a teen makes it easier to avoid being sent to the prisonlike Blight as an adult. As a midrange bender—roughly equivalent, in today's terms, to having a nonbinary gender—Lizard is at risk of being sent to Blight. At camp, Lizard unexpectedly forms deep connections to other campers. At the same time, Lizard increasingly suspects something sinister behind the camp's strong community spirit and the seemingly kind mentorship of director Ms. Mischetti. The world here is revealed gradually. The poetic, evocative prose is littered with unfamiliar neologisms—“skizzer,” “Mealio,” “vape”—with the expectation that readers will either pick up their meanings from context or be willing to wonder. Some words prove more useful than contemporary vocabulary: when Lizard develops a crush on a female camper, the word “jazz”—denoting everything from flirtation to sexual acts—provides a simple but startlingly effective way to talk about sexuality and attraction. Mischetti's warm leadership and disarming tendency to acknowledge disturbing rumors make her a dangerous enemy and mean Lizard's mission is more complicated than simply uncovering the truth.
Sophisticated, character-driven science fiction, as notable for its genderqueer protagonist as for its intricate, suspenseful plot. (Science fiction. 14-18)