When the institutions you trust fail you, what will you do—and how will you handle the consequences?
Two girls grapple with these questions in this gritty, lush debut chronicling psychological and environmental tipping points at a boarding school for girls on a remote island in the near future. Sixteen-year-old scholarship student Hetty was one of the first to show signs of the Tox. Over the last 18 months, she’s watched it ravage her classmates and teachers as they wait, quarantined within school grounds, for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop and deliver a cure. The Tox affects everyone differently: Hetty’s right eye sealed itself shut; her best friend, Byatt, grew a second, exterior spine; Reese has a sharp, silver-scaled left hand and glowing hair. Not everyone adapts to the Tox’s cyclical flare-ups—a girl brought to the infirmary rarely returns. The two remaining staff maintain tenuous order, but a flare-up that lands Byatt in the infirmary—with Hetty determined to protect her—quickly escalates into events that irrevocably shape the fates of everyone left on the island. Power deftly weaves a chilling narrative that disrupts readers' expectations through an expertly crafted, slow-burn reveal of the deadly consequences of climate change. Most characters are assumed white; Julia is brown-skinned and Cat is cued as Chinese-American. Several significant characters, including Hetty, are queer.
Part survival thriller, part post-apocalyptic romance, and part ecocritical feminist manifesto, a staggering gut punch of a book. (Dystopian. 12-18)