MAGGOT MOON

Despite intentions, this tale never connects past to present, resulting in a book with a message but no resonance.

Standish Treadwell, 15, has lost parents, neighbors, best friend: All disappeared from Zone Seven, a post-war occupied territory, into the hellish clutches of the Motherland. Now a new horror approaches.

Though it’s unnamed, the Motherland’s distinguishing features scream “Nazi Germany.” Life in Zone Seven is a dreary round of familiar miseries. Standish and Hector spin fantasies about the far-off tantalizing consumer culture they glimpsed on television (now banned), but they lack a vision of the future beyond vague dreams of rescue. Food is scarce; surveillance constant. Loved ones vanish; teachers beat children to death while classmates look on. Abetting the powerful, residents inform on their neighbors for food. Kindness revealed is punished; solutions are final. Call it Auschwitz lite. Why the brutal state bothers to educate those, like Standish, labeled “impure” (his eyes are of different colors and he’s dyslexic), is unclear. Despite short chapters and simple vocabulary and syntax, the detailed, sadistic violence makes this is a poor choice for younger readers, while oversimplified characters, a feeble setting and inauthentic science make it a tough sell for older ones. In this nuance- and complexity-free world, scarcity rules. Standish dreams of “ice-cream-colored Cadillacs” and drinking “Croca-Colas.” Wealth-disparity, climate change and childhood obesity don’t exist.

Despite intentions, this tale never connects past to present, resulting in a book with a message but no resonance. (Speculative fiction. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6553-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2012

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

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

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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 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

UNRAVEL ME

Some quality worldbuilding, but the story only inches along.

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. 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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