A girl struggles to remember her involvement in her stepsister’s death, aided by an artificially intelligent therapeutic companion.
White teen Cora Dietrich can’t remember much of what happened the night her stepsister, Hannah, (also white) fell down the stairs to her death. They’d both been drinking, but Cora was far more intoxicated. An advanced camera nodule on her temple called a Cerapin could have captured everything, and the girls’ home AI, Franka, could have called for help, but both were turned off before the fall. As the new girl in town, Cora’s painted as suspicious by Hannah’s friends, and she’s certain that Gary, Hannah’s father, believes she murdered his daughter. Cora won’t help with the investigation, so Gary enlists the aid of a state-of-the-art therapeutic companion AI named Rafiq. Cora is quickly bowled over by handsome, olive-skinned Rafiq since he offers respite from her ever surveilling parents. Rafiq helps Cora uncover the truth of that night, all the while unraveling the secrets of the sisters’ fraught relationship as he reviews Hannah’s archive of Cerapin videos. Told through Cora’s and Rafiq’s perspectives, the story offers an intimate exploration of Cora’s claustrophobic world and Rafiq’s burgeoning autonomy. Readers will be hooked by the mystery and compelled by Cora’s and Rafiq’s distinctly surprising trajectories. Rafiq’s coloring and Muslim name go unexplored in the text.
A dark and twisty psychological thriller that straddles the question of what it means to be human. (Science fiction. 14-adult)