From School Library Journal
Grade 7–10—For as long as she can remember, Rachel has lived a quiet life on The Property. Following her father's disappearance and assumed death in a war, her mother has been working as a live-in domestic for Ms. Moore, an orchid grower. But now that she's older, Rachel is consumed with questions about the Line, an invisible border that runs near the greenhouse at the back of The Property, separating the Unified States from Away. It is only when she receives a mysterious message from beyond the border that she begins to learn about her country's true history and the parts her parents played during the War. Hall's first novel gets off to a slow start, and the somewhat convoluted plot and two-dimensional protagonists may lose readers at the beginning. The writing relies heavily on overly long descriptive passages rather than allowing character development and dialogue to move the plot forward. For more engaging dystopian novels, suggest Lois Lowry's The Giver
(Houghton, 1993) and Michael Grant's Gone
(HarperTeen, 2008).—Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK
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In this futuristic debut, Rachel lives with her widowed mother, who is a housekeeper on the Property, an estate that borders the Line, a protective barrier that runs along the U.S. border. After a hostile force, the Korusal, blasted the area with atomic bombs, the Line has been rigidly maintained to keep out the Others: people who were trapped in the bombs’ fallout. Rachel is intensely curious about what life is like in the Away, beyond the Line, and when she finds a message from an Other pleading for help, she jumps into action. Her efforts trigger a series of events that not only compromise everyone on the Property but also reveal dangerous secrets. Hall nicely embeds the history of this repressive future world in a tense narrative that will leave readers intrigued with the mysterious Away. Rachel is an appealing character, and her young voice and the straightforward language make this a good choice for introducing young readers to the science-fiction genre. The abrupt cliff-hanger ending will create demand for the next book in the series. Grades 5-8. --Lynn Rutan