A chilling glimpse of life under authoritarian rule for reluctant readers.

THE RULES HAVE CHANGED

A White nationalist government with no tolerance for dissent has eliminated free will in this contemporary thriller.

After living on a sailboat in the South Pacific for the past three years, 11th grader Blake Pendleton returns to his hometown and discovers everything is different—and in the worst way. There is now a “New Order” that prizes conformity and unthinking obedience above all else. Blake immediately has trouble adapting to this militant style of learning and is punished through escalating sessions of solitary isolation and sensory deprivation. Ming and Gina, two classmates, bring Blake into their inner circle of activism as they try to undermine the New Order from within. It won’t take readers much to imagine similar events happening in the not-so-distant future, particularly given the role technology plays in the story. Racism experienced by Ming, who is the grandson of Chinese immigrants to North America, and Gina, who is Black, as well as propaganda about foreigners reflect real-life policies and incidents that have made recent headlines. Blake’s world represents one result of xenophobia and White supremacy being championed and legalized by those in power. This slim novel’s fast-paced action is accessible and engaging. The device of having Blake reenter society after several years of unconventional living shows readers the shocking nature of extreme changes that crept up on everyone else. Blake is assumed White.

A chilling glimpse of life under authoritarian rule for reluctant readers. (Dystopian. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2682-3

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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A probably harmless, entirely forgettable series opener.

THE SELECTION

From the Selection series , Vol. 1

It's a bad sign when you can figure out the elevator pitch for a novel from the get-go.

In this case, if it wasn't "The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games," it was pretty darn close. In a rigid, caste-based dystopian future, Illéa’s Prince Maxon has come of age and needs to marry. One girl will be chosen by lottery from each province to travel to the Capital and live in the palace so the prince can make his choice. The winning girl will become queen, and her family will all be elevated to Ones. America, a Five, doesn't want to join the Selection because she is in love with Aspen, a Six. But pressure from both her family and Aspen causes her to relent, and the rest is entirely predictable. She's chosen, she goes to the palace, she draws the ire of the other girls with her beauty and the interest of the prince with her spunky independence. Prince Maxon is much nicer than she expected, but she will remain loyal to Aspen. Maybe. Shabby worldbuilding complements the formulaic plot. Scant explanation is made for the ructions that have created the current political reality, and the palace is laughably vulnerable to rebels from both the North and the South, neither of whom are given any credible motives. But there's lots of descriptions of dresses.

A probably harmless, entirely forgettable series opener. (Dystopian romance. 13 & up)

Pub Date: April 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-205993-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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