In a nasty, hyperstratified future, white twins Vick and Tara are on their own in the scary streets of Chicago, where economic disaster has laid waste to the poorer sections of the city.
Although Tara is autistic—communicative but faced with worsening symptoms—she has a remarkable talent for designing the robot watchdogs that everyone uses for a variety of purposes. The pair scrounge for saleable electronics all day long in the blocks-long dump that’s developed in their part of the city, and at night Tara tinkers. But after she finds an amazing chip among the debris, she crafts a seemingly sentient little critter, Daisy. Daisy’s astonishing capabilities immediately attract the attention of the cruel overlord of the Chicago robotics world, Ms. Alba, an Asian woman who uses a group of imprisoned, mostly child workers to turn out watchdog robots. Her minions kidnap the siblings, but with Daisy’s help they break out. It’s only after they begin to accept help from other street kids that the believably portrayed Vick and Tara start to make a bit of progress. The grim setting is vividly depicted, and the clever-kid–against–mean-adult trope is both plausible and very satisfying. The fast-paced narrative readily conveys the looming sense of ever present danger.
Engaging, suspenseful, and with nearly all the vivid fighting confined to robots, this gritty tale is perfect for a younger audience than most post-apocalyptic stories. (Post-apocalyptic adventure. 10-14)