On a generation ship that left Earth 500 years ago, a teenager grapples with disillusionment and emotional isolation as her society nears the planet it intends to land on.
Terra lives with her harsh, alcoholic father and awaits her adult job assignment (think The Giver) from the strict ruling Council. As Terra trains in botany and discovers a secret rebellion aboard the Asherah, some of North’s worldbuilding and storytelling aspects succeed more than others. This society’s Judaism—cultural/linguistic, not religious—is rare for science fiction, and readers can see how Jewishness has evolved over time. The rebels want “liberty,” which isn’t explicitly defined but includes the dismantling of compulsory heterosexuality. Sidestepping a genre cliché, North makes it clear that Terra’s bashert (soul mate) won’t be either of the boys she dates on board. Unfortunately, she telegraphs revelations very early, minimizing their impact. Description of the Asherah’s design is frustratingly vague, making it hard to picture the ship’s decks, which hold full forests, pastures and buildings. Some technicalities distract: How could a 500-year-old spaceship have enough supplies to use paper for appointment reminder cards and gift-wrapping?
For nail-biting suspense aboard a generation ship, see Beth Revis’ Across the Universe (2011); but for Jewishness and gay characters in space, a poignantly lovely frame story about leaving Earth and a lonely kid seeking something to invest in, this is it. (Science fiction. 12 & up)