From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up - Set in 2368, this dystopian novel offers a glimpse of a potential future for our world. Blay lives in a work camp for homeless children, where they dig through a garbage dump to retrieve valuable items such as paper. There is not much technology left after the recent technocaust, when scientists were blamed for environmental disasters and taken to concentration camps. Due to her love of reading, Blay is chosen to help Marella, the new bio-indicator, with her studies. In the past, these individuals, whose bodies react to poisons in the environment, served as warning mechanisms for others, but now, as the Earth heals and the danger lessens, they are expected to collect and interpret scientific data. As she helps Marella pass a series of tests, Blay discovers that she has a natural talent for science. As she starts to live a more normal life, she realizes how misled she has been by the people in charge of her society. Her knowledge grows along with that of readers', building suspense and making the resolution more satisfying. Blay is a vividly rendered narrator who exposes her own emotional vulnerability, which enhances her heroism. The setting and culture of the book are equally vividly rendered, offering a depth that allows readers to believe fully in its premise. The writing is clear and crisp, evoking a magic that enchants. All of these elements make this one of the top science fiction novels in recent years. - Tasha Saecker, Caestecker Public Library, Green Lake, WI
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Gr. 6-9. McNaughton weaves an ambitious tale of a dystopian future that successfully explores many important threads: homeless children, pollution, natural history, education, and the role of science. In the year 2368, following ecological trauma and a "technocaust" that sent scientists and technicians to concentration camps, an oppressive government nurtures fear and ignorance. Now, U-R (Use-Rating) numbers indicate a citizen's value, and "bio-indicators" that monitor environmental toxin levels are revered. Blay Raytee, a young woman with a secret past and an uncertain future, is selected to assist beautiful Marrella in her preparations to become the bio-indicator for their village. Marrella's disinterest in her studies and Blay's love of reading and proclivity for learning ill suit them for their destined careers. Blay's understanding of her talents, her past, and her future unfolds in natural progression. The intriguing ideas, infusion of poetry, and hopeful conclusion more than compensate for a few weaknesses in plot and dialogue. The scarcity of introductory sf for middle-school readers makes this vision of the future, originally published in Canada, a must purchase. Cindy DobrezCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved