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#SJYALit Booklist: Environmental Dystopia, aka Cli-Fi

Cli-Fi is fiction that deals with the topic of climate change. Climate change is an important political and social justice issue as it affects everything from health to food and water resources See, for example, this discussion: The Next Frontier of Climate Change: Climate & Social Justice. Natalie Korsavidis joins us today to share this book list of environmental dystopians as part of the #SJYALit Discussion. You can find out more about the #SJYALIt Discussion here.


Augarde, Steve. X Isle. David Fickling, 2010.

Baz and Ray, survivors of an apocalyptic flood, win places on X-Isle, an island where life is rumored to be better than on the devastated mainland, but they find the island to be a violent place ruled by religious fanatic Preacher John, and they decide they must come up with a weapon to protect themselves from impending danger.

Bacigalupi, Paolo. Ship Breaker. Little, Brown, 2010.

In a futuristic world, teenaged Nailer scavenges copper wiring from grounded oil tankers for a living, but when he finds a beached clipper ship with a girl in the wreckage, he has to decide if he should strip the ship for its wealth or rescue the girl.

Bell, Hilari. Trickster’s Girl. Houghton Mifflin, 2011.

In the year 2098, America isn’t so different from the USA of today. The night Kelsa buries her father, a boy appears. He claims magic is responsible for the health of Earth, but human damage disrupts its flow. The planet is dying. Kelsa has the power to reverse the damage, but first she must accept that magic exists and see beyond her own pain in order to heal the planet.

Bertagna, Julie. Exodus. Macmillan, 2008.

In the year 2100, as the island of Wing is about to be covered by water, fifteen-year-old Mara discovers the existence of New World sky cities that are safe from the storms and rising waters, and convinces her people to travel to one of these cities in order to save themselves.

Crossan, Sarah. Breathe. Greenwillow Books, 2012.

In a barren land, a shimmering glass dome houses the survivors of the Switch, the period when oxygen levels plunged and the green world withered. A state lottery meant a lucky few won safety, while the rest suffocated in the thin air. And now Alina, Quinn, and Bea–an unlikely trio, each with their own agendas, their own longings and fears–walk straight into the heart of danger. With two days’ worth of oxygen in their tanks, they leave the dome. What will happen on the third day?

De la Cruz, Melissa. Frozen*. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2013.

More than a century after a catastrophic disaster wiped out most of humanity and covered much of the earth with ice, fifteen-year-old Cass yields to the voice in her head urging her to embark on a dangerous journey across a poisoned sea to the mythical land, Blue.

Emerson, Kevin. The Lost Code*. Katherine Tegen Books, 2012.

In a world ravaged by global warming, teenage Owen Parker discovers that he may be the descendant of a highly advanced, ancient race, with whose knowledge he may be able to save the earth from self-destruction.

Falkner, Brian. The Tomorrow Code. Random House, 2008.

Two New Zealand teenagers receive a desperate SOS from their future selves and set out on a quest to stop an impending ecological disaster that could mean the end of humanity.


Friesen, Jonathan. Aquifer. Blink, 2013.

In 2250, water is scarce and controlled by tyrants, but when sixteen-year-old Luca descends to the domain of the Water Rats, he meets one who captures his heart and leads him to secrets about a vast conspiracy, and about himself.

Grant, Sara. Dark Parties. Little, Brown, 2011.

Sixteen-year-old Neva, born and raised under the electrified Protectosphere that was built when civilization collapsed in violent warfare, puts her friends, family, and life at risk when she tries to find out if their world is built on a complex series of lies and deceptions.

Helvig, Kristi. Burn Out. EgmonstUSA, 2014.

In the future, when the Earth is no longer easily habitable, seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds, a girl in hiding, struggles to protect weapons developed by her father that could lead to disaster should they fall into the wrong hands.

Howard, Chris. Rootless. Scholastic, 2012.

Seventeen-year-old Banyan is a tree builder. Using scrap metal and salvaged junk, he creates forests for rich patrons who seek a reprieve from the desolate landscape. Although Banyan’s never seen a real tree, his father used to tell him stories about the Old World. But that was before his father was taken. Everything changes when Banyan meets a woman with a strange tattoo; a clue to the whereabouts of the last living trees on earth, and he sets off across a wasteland from which few return.

Lloyd. Saci. The Carbon Diaries 2015*. Holiday House, 2009.

In 2015, when England becomes the first nation to introduce carbon dioxide rationing in a drastic bid to combat climate change, sixteen-year-old Laura documents the first year of rationing as her family spirals out of control.

Lyga, Barry. After the Red Rain. Little, Brown, 2015.

In the far-off future, humankind has so ravaged the planet that plants and other life forms are nearly extinct. While a corrupt government exercises control over its remaining citizens, a strange boy named Rose turns up in 16-year-old Deedra’s home territory and inspires a quiet uprising that has her questioning everything, from the machines she builds at her factory job to the news provided via “wikinet” feed.

McGann, Oisin. Daylight Runner. Eos, 2008.

Outside the huge domed city, an Ice Age has transformed Earth into an Arctic desert. But inside, the Machine, protected by the Clockworkers—a fearsome police organization—has become the source of the city’s energy and a way for industrial leaders to wield enormous power. When a rogue organization begins posting messages warning of the Machine’s impending failure, civil unrest grows.

McGinnes, Mindy. Not a Drop to Drink. Katherine Tegen Books, 2013.

In the not-too-distant future, water has become scarce. Lynn and her mother are good shots, picking off stray travelers who are tempted by their pond. After her mother is killed by coyotes, Lynn tries to be self-reliant, but she knows that in time the men from a nearby settlement will attempt to seize her land. When her taciturn neighbor Stebbs offers help, she slowly opens herself to his friendship, and her lifelong solitude is further fractured when she meets a family that is trying to survive on the banks of a nearby stream.

McNaughton, Janet. The Secret Under My Skin. Eos, 2005.

In the year 2368, humans exist under dire environmental conditions and one young woman, rescued from a workcamp and chosen for a special duty, uses her love of learning to discover the truth about the planet’s future and her own dark past.

Moyer, Jenny. Flashfall. Henry Holt and Company, 2016.

In a world shattered by radiation fallout, teenaged Orion and her climbing partner Dram, in exchange for freedom, mine terrifying tunnels for a precious element that keeps humans safe from radiation poisoning, but disturbing revelations force Orion to question everything she knows.

Mullin, Mike. Ashfall. Tanglewood, 2011.

After the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano destroys his city and its surroundings, fifteen-year-old Alex must journey from Cedar Falls, Iowa, to Illinois to find his parents and sister, trying to survive in a transformed landscape and a new society in which all the old rules of living have vanished.

Pfeffer, Susan Beth. Life as We Knew It*. Harcourt, 2006.

Through journal entries sixteen-year-old Miranda describes her family’s struggle to survive after a meteor hits the moon, causing worldwide tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.

Weyn, Suzanne. Empty. Scholastic Press, 2010.

When, just ten years in the future, oil supplies run out and global warming leads to devastating storms, senior high school classmates Tom, Niki, Gwen, Hector, and Brock realize that the world as they know it is ending and lead the way to a more environmentally-friendly society.

If you have titles you would like to add to our list, please add them in the comments.

Additional Information:

Christie Gibrich previously put together THIS list of climate change dystopias.

What is CliFi? An Earth Day Primer

And I put together THIS collection of Earth Day activities, inspired in part by 47 Things You Can Do for the Environment published by Zest Books. Earth Day is coming, a great time to introduce your patrons to CliFi.

Social Justice and Climate Change

Meet Natalie Korsavidis

natalieNatalie Korsavidis is the Head of Young Adult at the Farmingdale Public Library. She received her MLS at CW Post University. She is currently President of the Young Adult Services Division of the Nassau County Library Association. She has spoken at New York Comic Con and the Long Island Pop Culture Convention.


The #SVYALit Project: The Specter of Rape in Not a Drop to Drink, a guest post by author Mindy McGinnis

A lot of people ask me about the specter of rape in NOT A DROP TO DRINK. While you’ll never find the actual word anywhere in the text, it hangs over the whole like a storm about to break. Lynn, Mother and Neva all express their fears in different ways, but each one of them is highly aware of the specific threats they face anytime they walk outside.

I’ve caught some flack for this, as well. Do I think that all men are simply waiting for the end of the world so that they can rape indiscriminately? Um, no. Stebbs, Eli, and even the man only referred to as Green Hat are good men who serve as counterpoints to the “bad guys” who wish to control the flow of goods – water, bullets, food… and women.  However, I think it’s very naive to paint a lawless world where some men don’t take advantage of women. In a place where your actions are held in check only by your own conscience there will be theft, murder and rape. 

Recently at a signing I had someone say to me, “It would be horrible to feel like you have to look over your shoulder every time you walk outside.” I definitely agree, but the statement stuck and I turned it over in my head as a I drove home. I look over my shoulder every time I walk outside right now. Maybe it’s hyper-awareness, maybe it’s all the self-defense classes, maybe it’s paranoia. Or – maybe it’s not. 
“Type of men who gather up seven of themselves to attack two women in the middle of the night generally won’t go back for dead friends.”
Mindy McGinnis, Not a Drop to Drink 

Maybe it’s just common sense.

If 60% of rapes are never reported and a whopping 97% of rapists never spend a day in jail, aren’t we already living in a world where this particular crime is dictated by a person’s conscience?
“Just know that there’s bad men in the world, and dying fast by your mother is a better way than theirs.”
Mindy McGinnis, Not a Drop to Drink 

It’s a frightening statistic, and one that makes the relationships between men and women in NOT A DROP TO DRINK even more realistic. Yet, even with this in mind I would not change anything about the book. Mother’s stark isolationism and mistrust is still unhealthy, and men like Stebbs and Eli still exist.

You just have to find them. And always, always be aware of the others.
About Not a Drop to Drink:
Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

The companion novel In a Handful of Dust will be released September 23rd by Katherine Tegen Books:
The only thing bigger than the world is fear.

Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach.

When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.

In this companion to Not a Drop to Drink, Mindy McGinnis thrillingly combines the heart-swelling hope of a journey, the challenges of establishing your own place in the world, and the gripping physical danger of nature in a futuristic frontier. 

For the next #SVYALit Project Google Hangout On Air, we’re going to look at what happens when the world falls apart: post apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. 

It’s the End of the World as We Know It, what we can learn about current issues surrounding sexual violence through dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction
Date:September 24th (Noon Eastern)
About Mindy McGinnis:  I’m a YA librarian and author, represented by Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary. My YA debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, is a survival tale set in a world with limited fresh water. I’m an avid blogger, posting six days a week to my personal blog, Writer, Writer Pants on Fire, which features interviews with agents, established authors, and debut authors. Learn how they landed their agents, what the submission process is really like, and how it feels when you see your cover for the first time. I also do query critiques every Saturday on the Saturday Slash for those who are brave enough to volunteer. 

The Next #SVYALit Project Google Hangout: It’s the End of the World as We Know It

For the next #SVYALit Project Google Hangout On Air, we’re going to look at what happens when the world falls apart: post apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. 

It’s the End of the World as We Know It, what we can learn about current issues surrounding sexual violence through dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction

Date:September 24th (Noon Eastern)

Confirmed: Mindy McGinnis (NOT A DROP TO DRINK), Ilsa J. Bick (ASHES), and Elizabeth Fama (PLUS ONE)

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

In the near future, water is scarce. Some people will do anything to get it.  And some people will do anything to protect what little they have.  Lynn has never known a world in the before, all she knows is now.  She is used to living with her mom and protecting their water.  But there are wisps of smoke in the horizon.  People are coming.  Is Lynn ready? The companion novel, In a Handful of Dust, will be released in October 2014.

Ashes by Ilsa. J. Bick

“An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every  electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.

Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.

For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human.” (Publisher’s Summary)

Ashes is the first book in a trilogy. Book two is Shadows and book 3 is Monsters.

Plus One by Elizabeth Fama

After the deadly flu pandemic in the early 1900s, the population was divided into two groups: those who are permitted to walk around during the day and those who are forced to live their life only by night. It began as a temporary measure to help minimize contact between large groups and stop the transmission of the flu, but it has now evolved into a caste system. Sol is a Smudge, one of those forced to work at night and sleep by day. But in one last attempt to do something for her family, she plots to kidnap a baby – for just a moment – so that her dying grandfather can see his last born relative, a Ray, before he dies.

Book Review: Hungry by H. A. Swain

Tagline: In the future, food is gone.

Publisher’s Description: In the future, food is no longer necessary—until Thalia begins to feel something unfamiliar and uncomfortable. She’s hungry.

In Thalia’s world, there is no need for food—everyone takes medication (or “inocs”) to ward off hunger. It should mean there is no more famine, no more obesity, no more food-related illnesses, and no more war. At least that’s what her parents, who work for the company that developed the inocs, say. But when Thalia meets a boy who is part of an underground movement to bring food back, she realizes that most people live a life much different from hers. Worse, Thalia is starting to feel hunger, and so is he—the inocs aren’t working. Together they set out to find the only thing that will quell their hunger: real food.

H. A. Swain delivers an adventure that is both epic and fast-paced. Get ready to be Hungry.

My Thoughts:

Hungry is set in a world where food no longer exists. There are no animals. No greenery. Everything is completely reliant on tech.

When we first meet Thalia, we get a sense that a utopia has settled over the land. Thalia, however, is very nostalgic for the past. She wears her grandmother’s clothes. She refuses to completely buy into the very consumerist society. And she is hungry . . . she is shocked when her stomach literally growls for the first few times.

Hungry is many things, but what I liked best about it was how it mirrored some of the things you see happening in our current world, including the market domination of One World (could they be a stand in for Monsanto? It’s possible). One World likes to pretend that they have cured all the world’s ills, but the truth is that they have created for themselves a single market which is making them incredibly rich, but at the expense of many others.

In fact, as we get further into the story the curtain is pulled back and Thalia learns that she lives in the inner circle of society – it literally is called the Inner Loop – where she is living a life of privilege. She gets personalized synth formula, what they use for food, personalized gizmos, and the very best education opportunities. What she soon learns is that there are other classes of people who can barely afford generic synth formula, who drive combustible automobiles or take public transportation to work menial jobs which barely affords them basic survival. And much to her dismay, the ills of the world – crime, murder, etc. – which she had always been told had been wiped out still exist outside her safe haven.

In terms of making readers think long and hard about various important and current political issues, Hungry does not disappoint.  Thalia meets Basil, an Analog who is part of the rebellion against the current system, and he gives an impassioned speech about how the system is designed so that he can’t get ahead no matter how hard he tries. This speech really echoes a lot of what you read about socio-economic upward mobility in the press. And having this speech come from someone that we have learned to respect about halfway through the story really brings the point home.

There are, however, a couple of issues that I had with the book. In the first part, we are introduced to Thalia and her world. We then get glimpses into the truth and meet the character of Basil. Then, Thalia is put in a rehab facility for her hunger. Revolution begins. This is all really good and interesting. But then, Thalia and Basil escape to the Hinterlands, which are basically the rest of the world where they are found and become involved in a type of cult for a while. It’s a lot to happen in just one book and parts of it are rushed, particularly as you get to the end. Although this section reinforced some of the main themes of power and corruption, and it brought back a character which brings some earlier moments full circle, it wasn’t as fully developed as the rest of the world that Swain took pains to create. For me, the book unravels a bit towards the end, which is unfortunate because there was some really good stuff in this first part of Hungry.

Some of the basic themes discussed in Hungry include human nature, power, corruption, corporate control, greed, class warfare, climate change, and the use of science and technology. The class warfare and government control issues were particularly fascinating to me.

I thought the first part of this book was interesting and did some really fantastic world building, but then it unravels. And I will admit, when you see how futuristic this world is, it’s hard to imagine that it evolved this quickly considering the fact that Thalia’s parents are part of the science team that helped make it happen. For me, the timeline seemed a little off. In the end I give it 3 out of 5 stars. I think Swain put some unique twists on the dystopian genre and manages to capture some very real and relevant parallels to our contemporary world.

Kirkus says, “ Despite some loose worldbuilding and predictability, this is a page-turner that wants a sequel.Emotionally satisfying dystopia with a generous helping of forno.” – Kirkus, June 01, 2014.

Hungry by H. A. Swain publishes by Feiwel and Friends on June 3, 2014. ISBN: 9781250028297
I picked up an ARC of this at TLA.

Past is Prologue: Take 5 Historical Fictions for Dystopia Fans

Evil governmental oppressors, secrets, spies and deception, a roiling underclass yearning to break out of bondage and one true hero who finds the way to do it – this is the stuff we love in our dystopian novels. But these are not only features in dystopia. We can look to history for plenty of examples of unjust governments, evil regimes, oppressed people seeking freedom, and plenty of heroes.  Below are five novels drawn on events, attitudes, and situations from the past that were all too real, and also employ many of the same appeal elements as dystopian novels. 

Dancer Daughter Traitor Spy by Elizabeth Kiem

Marina is born of privilege. Her mother, Sveta, is the Soviet Union’s prima ballerina: an international star handpicked by the regime. But Sveta is afflicted with a mysterious second sight and becomes obsessed with exposing a horrific state secret. Then she disappears. 

Fearing for their lives, Marina and her father defect to Brooklyn. Marina struggles to reestablish herself as a dancer at Juilliard. But her enigmatic partner, Sergei, makes concentration almost impossible, as does the fact that Marina shares her mother’s “gift,” and has a vision of her father’s murder at the hands of the Russian crooks and con artists she thought they’d left behind.  

Now Marina must navigate the web of intrigue surrounding her mother’s disappearance, her ability, and exactly whom she can—and can’t—trust.

Soldier X by Don Wulffson

Sixteen-year-old Erik Brandt barely knows what Germany is fighting for when he is drafted into Hitler’s army in 1944. Sent to the killing fields of the Eastern Front, he is surrounded by unimaginable sights, more horrific than he ever thought possible. It’s kill or be killed, and it seems clear that Erik’s days are numbered. Until, covered in blood and seriously injured, he conceives of another way to survive. Filled with gritty and visceral detail, Soldier X will change the way every reader thinks about the reality of war.

The Extra by Kathryn Lasky

One ordinary afternoon, fifeen-year-old Lilo and her family are suddenly picked up by Hitler’s police and imprisoned as part of the “Gypsy plague.” Just when it seems certain that they will be headed to a labor camp, Lilo is chosen by filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl to work as a film extra. Life on the film set is a bizarre alternate reality. The surroundings are glamorous, but Lilo and the other extras are barely fed, closely guarded, and kept in a locked barn when not on the movie set. And the beautiful, charming Riefenstahl is always present, answering the slightest provocation with malice, flaunting the power to assign prisoners to life or death. Lilo takes matters into her own hands, effecting an escape and running for her life. In this chilling but ultimately uplifting novel, Kathryn Lasky imagines the lives of the Gypsies who worked as extras for the real Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, giving readers a story of survival unlike any other.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson

It sounds like a fairy tale. He is a boy dressed in silks and white wigs and given the finest of classical educations. Raised by a group of rational philosophers known only by numbers, the boy and his mother — a princess in exile from a faraway land — are the only persons in their household assigned names. As the boy’s regal mother, Cassiopeia, entertains the house scholars with her beauty and wit, young Octavian begins to question the purpose behind his guardians’ fanatical studies. Only after he dares to open a forbidden door does he learn the hideous nature of their experiments — and his own chilling role in them. Set against the disquiet of Revolutionary Boston, M. T. Anderson’s extraordinary novel takes place at a time when American Patriots rioted and battled to win liberty while African slaves were entreated to risk their lives for a freedom they would never claim. The first of two parts, this deeply provocative novel reimagines the past as an eerie place that has startling resonance for readers today.
A gothic tale becomes all too shockingly real in this mesmerizing magnum opus by the acclaimed author of FEED

Sekret by Lindsay Smith

An empty mind is a safe mind.
Yulia’s father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she’s captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she’s thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one–not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention–and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.


Book covers and descriptions from the publishers.

Book Review: Control by Lydia Kang (reviewed by Erinn Batykefer)

Control is set in a dystopian future in which America has divided into mega-states with harsh dress codes, moral standards, and laws against extreme genetic mutations.  Any child born with such a mutation is “dealt with,” but some underground groups abduct such kids before the government can intervene and use their mutations to develop commercial products at high profits. 

We meet Zelia Benton as her father, a genetic researcher, is packing their family up for yet another move to a new megastate.  Their nomadic life follows his research—which feels slightly shady from the get-go—and is under his strict control.  Zelia and her sister Dylia only study what their dad tells them to, only go where he says they can go in a series of abrupt moves. On this particular move, a disastrous crash results in the girls losing their father and being transferred into the future equivalent of Child Services…except that it’s not reallychild services.  It’s an underground group called Carus House that serves as a safe house for mutant kids, rather than exploiting or eliminating them.  Before the girls can go to Carus, though, Dylia is abducted by Areus House, a rival group, and Zelia is plunged into the world of mutants in her quest to rescue her sister and find out what her father was really up to all those years.
The writing at the beginning of Control suggests a much more sophisticated and nuanced narrative that the rest of the book simply doesn’t deliver, unfortunately.  Foreshadowing is virtually absent from the novel, which means that the plot drives the revelations in the story, rather than the other way around.  Characters aren’t developed to the point that you understand their motives and can predict what they will do in a trying situation; instead, they often reveal convenient characteristics or skills in the moment they are needed to advance the plot. 
That’s a huge problem that crops up in all aspects of Control, from the characterization of the heroine, her family, and other important players, to the love story on which the story’s resolution hinges.  Cy has lived in Carus House for years, and has a mutation that allows for extremely fast healing and a backstory that means he tortures himself by tattooing himself daily, healing, and tattooing himself again.  He’s also a brilliant scientist, and this adds up to a very compelling broken bad-boy character.  He and Zelia’s attraction sizzles under the surface of the beginning of the novel and develops slowly and believably at first….and then the plot happens.
Zelia is cast as a weakling from the beginning, with a breathing disorder called Ondine’s Curse that makes it nearly impossible for her to breathe without the aid of a necklace that forces her lungs to work.  She is described as small and underdeveloped compared to her younger sister.  And she is a rule-follower– trained to be afraid of conflict, violence, and anything less than strict obedience to her father. Yet in one of the romantic scenes between her and Cy, she is able to maneuver herself up a tough climbing wall in the Carus House rec room with minimal direction from Cy, even though she has never been climbing before in her life.  This moment seems a tenuous set-up, even in a story where hidden genetic talents are par for the course, and later, Zelia breaks in to the rival Aureus House compound and proceeds to take out the deadly teens there with a combination of fighting skills that were completely absent in the text to this point, and medical compounds that mimic or magnify the special traits of her new Carus family members.
What Control lacks in narrative subtlety, though, can be glossed over in favor of the heroine, Zelia, who is cast as a brilliant scientist who has worked in labs from a young age, and whose determination and ingenuity with genetic puzzles is perhaps the most compelling writing and story in the book.  The frenetic pace, the promise (though not delivery) of the romantic subplot, and the compelling nerd-girl science behind the premise make for a fast read that is fun to think about, and which I whipped through in just a couple days.  Another plus? The racial ambiguity of almost all of the characters.  And the fact that Zelia isn’t just a science nerd, but a poetry nerd as well—and her  knowledge of poems actually helps her crack the mystery of her father’s research and her sister’s whereabouts.
For a school librarian standpoint, Control may be hard to place.  The language is clean—the worst swears in the entire book are hell and ass—but the complex genetic mutation story logically progresses to biological function.  Girls are captured, brainwashed, and impregnated in the story in order to breed new mutations that might be lucrative, and we’re talking girlshere: 13 and 14 year olds who are manipulated by one of the villains.  The implication is that their pregnancies are not invitro, either, in spite of the laboratory settings that are common in the story.  Zelia and Cy also engage in some legit makeout sessions and sleepovers, where it’s not clear if anything sexual happens, but it might.  And there’s some clubbing with underage drinking and neurodrug use. 
I’d say this is a good read to recommend for math/science types, especially those who may feel straightjacketed by parents or school curricula that forces them to choose science over art, or vice versa.  The strength of the heroine is not terribly well-developed in terms of character, but the bones of a smart, take-no-prisoners heroine are certainly there, and the fact that she acknowledges both sides of her intelligence and uses them to her advantage is a solid message for teens. 
This review refers to an ARC.  Control will be released December 26th by Dial Books for Young Readers.  ISBN: 9780803739048

Erinn Batykefer is Co-founder and Managing Editor of the Library as Incubator Project. She earned her Master of Fine Arts in Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2007 and her Master of Library and Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2012.  She works at Madison Public Library, and is currently writing three different books…oh wait, four.  Seriously.  When she’s not in a writing workshop, running the LAIP, or designing programs at the library, she makes quilts, watches Sherlock, and enjoys experimenting in the kitchen (which is often delicious and only sometimes disastrous).

Book Review: Inhuman by Kat Falls

The map had been printed pre-exodus – there was no symbol on it to indicate the Titan wall, which ran from the Canadian border with its trenches and electrified fence to the Gulf of Mexico. Also, the map showed dozens of bridges crossing the Mississippi River when only one was still in existence. Known as “the last bridge,” it crossed into the quarantine zone by way of Arsenal Island. Everybody knew that. Everybody also knew that the last bridge was heavily guarded.
“Isn’t Arsenal Island a line patrol camp?”

“It is. Dr. Solis lives there with the guards. So don’t get caught,” Spurling said as if it was no big deal. “If you do, don’t expect me to intervene on your behalf. I’ll deny everything. By the way, when you find Mack, tell him that he has five days to complete the fetch.”

“Why only five days?”

“The patrol is shoring up the rubble along the east side of the wall. They start work on these tunnels Thursday morning.” She flicked a hand at the two steel doors.
“Tell them not to!”

Spurling arched a penciled brow. “The line guards work for the Titan corporation. They don’t take orders from government officials, not even me.”

“But what if it takes me five days to find him?”

“Arsenal Island is directly on the other side of the wall. It should take you ten minutes to get there. After that, either Dr. Solis knows where Mack is hiding or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, do not go looking for your father. Just come back here and press the call button outside that door. I’ll come get you.”

“If I try but don’t find my dad, will you still destroy the evidence against him?”

“Please. Why would I put myself at risk if I have nothing to show for it?”


“The more time you waste now, the less Mack will have for the fetch.”

Before my legs locked up entirely, I slung the deadweight of the messenger bag over my shoulder and picked up the map. I would find my father and give him the letter and then he’d do the fetch and everything would go back to normal. I could do this. I would do this. And I wasn’t going to freak out about it. . . much.

I lifted my dial. “I need to call our housekeeper and tell him that I’m okay.” Howard had to have heard from some parent that I’d been hauled off by biohaz agents. He was probably outside the quarantine center at this moment, trying to kick down the door.

“Howard was arrested hours ago.” Spurling’s tone was offhanded. “I have to say, for an old guy, he’s a tough nut to crack.”


“He’s being questioned about his knowledge of your father’s illegal activities.”

I stared at her, wanting to shout that Howard knew nothing. But was it true? I wasn’t sure of anything anymore.

“By the way,” she went on, “we dropped off your pets at the local shelter. You have until the end of the week to claim them.”

And I’d thought this woman couldn’t make me hate her any more. “What if I can’t?”

“Well, someone might adopt the one-eyed dog or the diabetic cat, but the rest? Even you have to admit they’re a pretty sorry lot.”

I drew a breath against the tightness in my chest. Director Spurling had just drawn a bulls-eye on everyone and everything I loved. And if I didn’t do what she wanted, she was going to start pulling the trigger. I cleared my throat. “I’d like to get going now, if that’s okay.”

“Of course.” She led me across the room to the twin doors. “I knew you were the right girl for the job, Delaney,” she said, and pressed her fob to the pad on the wall.

The door on the right rolled open and I found myself staring into a gaping darkness. Feeling close to heart failure, I stepped into the tunnel.

“One last thing,” she said. “I’m sure you’ve heard that the Ferae virus isn’t as lethal as it was nineteen years ago.”

I nodded, though I wasn’t planning on testing it out.

“Then you’ve probably also heard that instead of dying when people get infected now, they mutate.”

A cold feeling crept along my neck. “Those are just stories.”

“No, actually, they’re not. So be careful.”

Every muscle in my body went rigid. “What? Are you saying there are mutants over there?”

“On the far side of the river, yes. Stick to the island and you should be fine. Good luck, Delaney.” Spurling pressed the lock pad again and the door slid shut behind me.

Almost 20 years ago, the United States was decimated by a virus called the Ferae- turning people into monsters then destroying them. Giving up control to the Titan Corporation, the survivors in the West live behind the Wall, with the East is left to go back to nature, and those contaminated with the virus.16 year old Lane grew up with the wall, and doesn’t know that her father Mack is one of the most renowned fetches in the world- taking the challenge of finding anything in the Feral Zone and bringing it back, for a price. However, when her father goes missing and Director Spurling forces Lane to find him or be faced with losing everything, Lane must turn the stories he told her into fact and piece together the clues in order to survive- for there are no second chances.

A gripping bio-dystopia, Inhuman has a lushly built world with developed characters and surprises around every turn. When Lane discovers that her bedtime stories were actually true, and that the stories her father told her were clues in case she ever needed to brave the Feral Zone, she starts to find her footing in this new and strange world. She is accompanied at various times by Everson (a Titan Guard) and Rafe (a Zone thief), who both have their secrets that they want to keep from Lane, and their own wishes for Mack if they can find him. Humans blend with the animals, and readers won’t be able to tell from outward appearances which is which. Definitely a series to keep an eye on; first of a planned trilogy. 4 out of 5 stars. Pair with other bio-dystopias like The Compound by S. A. Bodeen, The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau, or The Proxy by Alex London.

Want to win finished copy of Inhuman? Share in the comments your thoughts on the book, or your favorite dystopian that deals with biological issues. Don’t forget to leave your twitter handle or email so we can contact you if you win! Giveaway will end October 11, 2013.  Open to U.S. residents.

Book Review: Coda by Emma Trevayne

I step back from the mike. “Pixel,” I say, shaking my head when he glances at me. I stare the guy down. “Yeah, you don’t feel it. That’s because this is real music, and you’ve got to want it. You’ve got to let it get inside your head. Do that, and the high is better than some processed drug. This is what the Corp keeps from you so that they can make us listen to the stuff that’ll kill us. So they can keep us under control, use our bodies for energy, take our credits, and run our lives. If that high is worth it to you, go back to your console.”

He doesn’t say anything. I’ve started it, now. It’s too late to turn back, but I guess it’s been too late since that day Johnny first showed me the basement. Everything was always leading here.

“There used to be five of us,” I continue, gesturing to the band before I face the audience again. Rapt expressions nearly make me shut up. I’m not the person for this. “Our friend put on a track one day and dropped dead. They killed him, and he’s not the only one. It could happen to any of us, any time we put on a track. Have you ever pissed off the Corp? You might not know even if you have. Maybe our friend was lucky. Maybe it’s a good thing that he won’t go through what happens when the music’s finally eaten through enough of his brain. But do the Corp care? No, it just makes room for the next person to come along: someone else for their guards to threaten, someone else to give up their life for the Corp’s glory.”

Murmurs ripple. “And you’re gonna change all that?” asks the guy, raising his voice to be heard. Yeah, I don’t really believe it either.

“I’m saying that this is what they take from us.” I slap the body of my guitar. “The right to express ourselves. They take it and use it to kill us, instead. I’m saying we take it back, but we need your help. We need people.”

“For what?”

I can’t see where the question comes from, but it’s one I’ve asked myself a thousand times. “Change,” I say. “To show President Z, the Board, and everyone else involved with encoding the music and keeping real stuff from us that we don’t want this anymore. That they have to give music back to us and know they can never get away with doing this again. To replace them, if that’s what it takes.”

Welcome to the future, where the United States of America is no more, and everything is run by The Corp. Humans are born with numbers, energy is one of the most precious commodities and generated from people and their emotions, and music is how you get medicine- and mandatory highs- and is controlled (like everything else) by the Corp. Eighteen year old Anthem tries to lose himself and his troubles in the clubs, but nothing seems to beat the highs he gets from playing music himself, which is illegal and extremely dangerous. When his friend and mentor Johnny is killed by a track, Anthem, his girlfriend Haven, his ex Scope, and the rest of the band decide to take on the Corp by fighting the only way they know how:  by growing resistance through underground concerts. Yet when The Corp decides that they are too big of a threat to ignore, and a traitor destroys everything, Anthem has to chose between resistance and what he feels is right, and the safety of his family. 

Coda is extremely gripping and a wonderful (and disturbing) dystopia built upon a media that almost everyone is familiar with. The dialogue is exquisite, and the characters are colorful, flawed, and extremely well-described. Readers fall into Anthem’s world almost immediately, and are carried along for the ride. The twists and turns within the story carry throughout the book, and keep readers on edge and wanting more. It definitely fits within the cyberpunk genre (confused? think about the movie Tron: Legacy for inspiration) and throughout does not lose its core or optimism. 5 out of 5 stars. As of July 21, 2013, Goodreads rates Coda 4.05 out of 5 stars (what is WRONG with them?!??!). 

I love the fact that music is used as the control over the human population, especially when you consider how much we listen to music. Anthem is such a complicated character, and his decisions are not easy ones. As a reader I felt each decision with him, and when the twists hit, I agonized with him through his choices. I also loved the fluidity within love that Anthem feels- like some of my teens he loves who he loves, no matter what body they happen to be in. Haven (his current love) is female, yet Scope (his former love) is male, and no one bats an eye over this. 

Another thing that really struck me with this book is how dedicated Anthem is to his family. His mother dies early in his life, and his father is dying, so it’s up to Anthem to take care of his younger siblings (twins, who have called themselves Alpha and Omega). He’s constantly worrying about them, about how fast they’re growing up, about them getting addicted to the music like he is and going through the cravings, and about how they’re destined to grow up like he is, to become little more than a living battery for the upper elite. Anyone with siblings has been in that situation before- worrying about their situation- and Emma writes it so believably that it strikes chords within your soul. It’s a beautiful book, and I’m excited that there is more to come from her including Chorus…. 

Coda is nominated for the 2014 Rainbow Project List, and is a 2014 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adult nominee.

I got my galley of Coda after totally fangirling on Emma at ALA Midwinter 2013 in Seattle.
It’s signed, and to me, and I’m keeping it. I did try to find her at ALA Annual in Chicago
(she had all purple hair then) but just missed her signing, so alas, no giveaway for this one.

Book Review: Article 5 by Kristen Simmons (with BREAKING POINT ARC Giveaway)

There were two cars parked on the street, a blue van and a smaller car that looked like an old police cruiser. On the side of each was the FBR emblem. I didn’t need to read the motto below to know what it said: One Whole Country, One Whole Family. It always gave me a little jolt of inadequacy, like my little two-person family wasn’t whole enough.

There was someone in the driver’s seat of the van, and another soldier outside on the sidewalk in front of our house. As I watched, the back of the van opened and two more soldiers hopped out on to the street.

Something was wrong, There were too many soldiers here just to fine us for violating a Statute.

My mom returned to the door, digging through her purse. Her face was flushed. I stepped shoulder to shoulder with her and forced my breath to stead.
She found her wallet and pulled out her ID. Bateman checked it quickly before stuffing it into the front pocket of his shirt. Conner lifted a paper I hadn’t seen him holding, ripped off the sticky backing, and slapped it against our front door.

The Moral Statutes.
“Hey,” I heard myself say. “What are you-“

“Lori Whittman, you are under arrest for violation of the Moral Statutes, Section 2, Article 5, Part A revised, pertaining to children conceived out of wedlock.:
Arrest?” My mom’s voice hitched. “What do you mean?”

My mind flashed through the rumors I’d heard about sending people to prison for Statute violations, and I realized with a sick sense of dread that these weren’t rumors at all. It was Katelyn Meadows all over again.

“Article 5!” Ryan blurted out from behind us. “How could that apply to them?”

“The current version was revised on February twenty-fourth. It includes all dependent children under the age of eighteen.”

“February twenty-fourth? That was only Monday!” Beth said sharply.

Conner reached across the threshold of our home and grabbed my mother’s shoulder, pulling her forward. Instinctively, I wrapped both hands around his forearm.

“Let go, miss,” he said curtly. He looked at me for the first time, but his eyes were strange, as if they didn’t register that I was present. I loosened my hold but did not release his arm.

“What do you mean ‘arrest’?” My mother was still trying to process.

“It’s quite clear, Ms. Whittman.” Bateman’s tone was condescending. “You are out of compliance with the Moral Statutes and will be tried by a senior officer of the Federal Bureau of Reformation.”

After the War, the United States gave license to the Moral Militia and it’s enforces, the Federal Bureau of Reformation. People have defined gender roles, ways of dress and acting, and those not conforming to the ever-changing rules and Moral Statutes can be fined. Or worse. Rumors have people arrested, then disappearing and never coming back. When Ember’s mother is arrested for having 17 year-old Ember out of wedlock, Ember fights back and is sent to the Reformation House to be rehabilitated into a model citizen- through classes, torture and assault. Making it worse is that Ember is the one who let loose her mother’s secret- months ago, to her boyfriend Chase, who enlisted in the FBR after they broke up. Yet when Chase shows up to take her to her mother’s trial, he breaks her free and they try and find the underground movement used to keep violators safe. Ember cannot tell who to trust, and what is real.

First in a planned trilogy, Article 5 gives a jarring account of what can happen when the freedoms we take for granted are taken away. Women are forced into dresses, people are forced into certain jobs and roles, and above it all is the FBR, an evil moral Big Brother that changes the rules every so often and has the power to make you disappear. Chase, Ember’s former boyfriend, has been so broken by the FBR that Ember is never sure whether to trust him or not, but yearns for the connection that they had and she threw away months ago. And Chase is throwing everything away just to see Ember safe. Extremely graphic at times, with abuse, torture, and sexual assault, it is not for the faint of heart reader, but I would definitely recommend it for those in love with books like Starters or the Delirium series. 3.5 out of 5 stars. As of July 24, 2013, Goodreads has Article 5 listed as 3.8 stars.

Enter our Rafflecopter to win an ARC of book two in the series, Breaking Point. 

From the publisher:

Near-celebrities now for the increasingly sensationalized tales of their struggles with the government, Ember and Chase are recognized and taken in by the Resistance—an underground organization working to systematically take down the government. At headquarters, all eyes are on the sniper, an anonymous assassin taking out FBR soldiers one by one. Rumors are flying about the sniper’s true identity, and Ember and Chase welcome the diversion….
Until the government posts its most-wanted list, and their number one suspect is Ember herself.

Book Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

There is a hum of a motor and a large white screen unfurls above the stage. A black heart symbol flashes. You can hear people murmur as the symbol registers. Their time has come. I see Nicolette tromp up the aisle and disappear out the door with the twenty or so members of her group. Several minutes pass. A few people whisper. I hold my breath, waiting for the next group to be called.
A triangle. Malachi and Ryme.

I spot Malachi’s small, slight body rise from a seat to our far left. His mouth is pursed in concentration or fear as he walks up the aisle. I give him a thumbs-up, but his eyes are plastered on the back of the girl in front of him and he doesn’t notice.

There are fewer whispers. More fidgeting as we wait. My heart keeps pace with the seconds ticking by. The screen flickers. Another symbol.


Tomas sucks in air, and I remember. Ours. Though I am certain he will outdistance all of us on the tests, I am so glad he is coming with me. He is a touchstone from home. I will do better knowing he is near.

We rise and join the others in our group. I can’t help but notice that our group is much smaller than the others. Once we are in the hallway, I count. Ten. Half the size. Is this good or bad? The two Testing officials in their red and purple do not allow me the time to worry further. The blonde asks us to follow her. She heads down the hallway to the left and we follow. A dark-haired man brings up the rear.

The woman at the door instructs us to step inside and take a seat at one of the desks. The door is narrow. Tomas goes first. I enter next. Two steps inside and I stop walking. My feet are planted to the floor as bile climbs up my throat.

I know this room.

White walls.

White floors.

Black desks.

This is the Testing room from my father’s nightmares.

On graduation day, everyone is celebrating, but all sixteen-year-old Malencia (Cia) Vale is hoping for is to be chosen for The Testing, a program that selects the best and brightest new graduates to become possible leaders and blaze the way for the revitalization of the world after the war.  No one from the Five Lakes Colony has been chosen in years, yet FOUR are chosen from Cia’s class, including her. When her father shares his nightmares of his Testing, and the insidious threats of treason all around her, Cia has no choice but to head to Tosu City and whatever awaits her- including her possible death. And who can she trust when everyone wants the same thing:  to survive The Testing and make it to University?

After nuclear war obliterates much of the planet and the earth fights back by unleashing meteorological terrors that almost destroy what is left of the human race, the United Commonwealth is formed. Based in Tosu City (what was once Wichita, Kansas), the government takes the best and brightest of the graduating classes to be entered into The Testing- a four part series of mental, physical, and psychological exams to determine who can handle the rigors of leadership in the new world.  When Cia is chosen for The Testing, her father shares his own nightmare experience of his Testing: colony friends gone missing, people dying, and blanks where memories should be. However, to refuse to undergo The Testing is treason, and death. Joined by three other members of her colony, Cia embarks on a journey that pushes everyone to their breaking point and beyond- where a mistake or even trusting the wrong person means death, and everyone is fighting for survival. Wonderful twists and turns throughout the book keep readers on their toes, and the final twist sets up for the next book (Independent Study) extremely well. Cia is a strong and vibrant heroine, and will definitely find fans with those who love Katniss (Hunger Games), Tris (Divergent), or Tally (Uglies).  The situations are extremely violent, so I would hesitate giving it to younger readers who may not be ready for some scenes, even though I have no qualms about putting it in a young adult collection. 4.25 out of 5 stars.  Goodreads has The Testing listed as 4.00 stars as of Tuesday, May 14, 2013.


OMG, I loved this book! I could not put it down!!!  I am a huge lover of dystopias, so that should give you a clue, but I was immediately pulled into Cia’s world. It reminded me of a mix of Hunger Games and Battle Royale (testing, evaluation, and fighting to the death with teenagers to find the victors while the adults watch) with hints of Divergent (grouping by abilities/test scores/aptitudes) and Uglies (the complete separation from your past if you’re accepted to University, and the HUGE twist at the end that I am NOT going to spoil). 

It definitely had enough world building for me, and Karen loves me enough to grab a copy of Independent Study (the second book) during the Texas Library Association Annual Convention, which explains the world even more, and that makes me a happy reader- I am geek enough that I need to know HOW the world broke in my dystopias, it’s not enough for me to know THAT it broke, I’m a toddler always asking WHY?!?!?!?!

Definitely one to keep around, and keep an eye on. With movie studios picking up YA dystopias like crazy to make into movies and TV shows, I can’t help but wonder if this one will get looked at as well.