How long can one teen resist the pressure to conform to his society’s morbid fascination with death and rebirth?
On a parallel planet visited by environmental devastation, where humans have nine lives and the government has incentivized suicide as a way to deal with overpopulation, Julian is haunted by the memory of his mother, who burned through all of her lives very quickly and suffered the consequences. While his peers attend Burners parties where they enthusiastically drug themselves and commit various forms of suicide, Julian resists taking part. However, he experiences pressure from all sides—even from his own father, who worries about the family’s financial future. With each death, people gain societal benefits and are reborn at the age they were before but physically improved (albeit with a new identity chip implanted and the number of lives they’ve used up tattooed on their neck for all to see). Intrigued by a mysterious cat and helped by two unusual new friends, Julian uncovers the dark underbelly of his society’s system of control. The energetic writing style and fast pace will keep readers engaged. The book follows a white default with some diversity in secondary characters. The description of a biracial (Japanese and presumably white) character as having “an odd face” is troubling.
A light, plot-driven read for those who prefer action to depth and character development. (Dystopian. 14-18)