Set in an alternate San Francisco, Grove’s (The Crimson Skew, 2016, etc.) latest posits a world where humans lose all emotions beginning at the age of 10.
Understandably, Natalia Peña expects her 10-year-old brother, Cal, to undergo the waning process just like she did, but instead, his emotional capacity intensifies day after day. Cal’s resistance to the fade eventually attracts the attention of RealCorp, a shadowy, mighty pharmaceutical corporation that manufactures synaffs—expensive drugs that incite feelings in users. When RealCorp kidnaps Cal for testing, Nat sets off on a single-minded pursuit to get her brother back. But what exactly is fueling her determination? Grove expertly builds a memorable, if eerily unflappable, heroine via a first-person narratorial voice that will keep readers engrossed until the bittersweet end. Chapters from Cal’s limited point of view serve to fill in contextual and worldbuilding gaps left behind by Nat’s adult-oriented narrative, revealing a world ruled by apathy and nostalgia for bygone eras. On her journey, Nat must contend with absent parents (deceased or otherwise) as well as the Fish, a drooglike group who’ve cast aside society’s rules in favor of bleak violence. What’s behind humanity’s lack of emotions? Some potential answers (a decline in empathy coupled with unmonitored technological progress) seem terrifyingly plausible even in today’s social climate. With few physical descriptions, diversity is indicated mostly through names, and Nat is cued as Latinx.
A provoking, striking call to self-reflection. (Dystopian fiction. 14-adult)