Tarkoff's debut novel follows a young woman's coming-of-age in a dystopic near future where moral character and physical beauty go hand in hand...or do they?
The world has been transformed by the judgment of God, known as the Great Spirit in the global religion that dominates Earth by 2031. "Faith" is no longer the evidence of things not seen: instead, it's starkly visible, as committing a sin leads to instantaneous physical degradation, illness, and even death. A handsome man is by default a good person; a disfigured woman did something to deserve it. The world is at peace—the peace of a people obsessed with piety and desperate to avoid the Great Spirit's divine justice. But Grace Luther, teenage daughter of an influential pastor, learns that faith is never so simple when she meets a gorgeous young man whose good looks turn out to be deceiving. The riddle of how this is even possible leads Grace to face the ghosts of her own past—a dead best friend, her own mother—and to question whether divine justice is really just, or even divine at all. Grace's questions bring her to the attention of powerful factions and dangerous people; what began as girl-meets-boy escalates to geopolitical intrigue, espionage, daring rescues, and Grace's growing, bittersweet self-awareness of what it really means to be a good person. What will Grace do with her epiphanies, and what sort of person will she become? That's for the next book in the series to answer, of course.
Clever worldbuilding elevates the story above its occasional moral ham-handedness, and the plot is juicy enough to carry readers to the sequel.