Author: H. A. Swain
Publisher & Release Date: Feiwel & Friends, June 3
The Hook: Another dystopian tale with romance; this one pretty convincing in how the circumstances came about – a corporation manipulating the government to agree to its demands in ‘feeding’ the population as climate change destroys great swathes of the ecosystem.
The Lowdown (from jacket): In Thalia’s world, there is no more food and no need for food, as everyone takes medication to ward off hunger. Her parents both work for the company that developed the drugs society consumes to quell any food cravings, and they live a life of privilege as a result. When Thalia meets a boy who is part of an underground movement to bring food back, she realizes that there is an entire world outside her own.
Overall Impressions: Thalia and her family live inside a bubble of privilege, one so well-constructed that Thalia and her friends have no inkling of the second-class that are starving beyond the walls of the city. Thalia rebels in small ways, but it’s only when her hunger pangs, ineffectively suppressed by her formulated Synthamil, drive her away from her “our medicine will cure anything” parents that she really cracks the carefully constructed facade of corporation-created perfection.
She does have emotional support in the form of her more traditional (pre-Synthamil) grandparents and a friend, who’s also a little deeper than she appears. After discovering the attractive Basil with (essentially) a magic box of delicious smells, Thalia and Basil venture outside the walls and quickly careen from anarchist protests groups to angry riots to opportunistic scavenger – and finally a commune that is far less idyllic than it first appears.
The Highs: I most enjoyed the world-building in creating a dystopia that had a very clear cause and cascading effects; many that I’ve read leave it to a sort of “ultimate war” or simply “previous events” that aren’t terrifically clear. The mega-corporation One World is an effectively intimidating Big Bad, one with Big Brother-esque control over most of the inner city and tendrils of power that catch our heroes by surprise.
The social construction is also food for thought (ahem) for teens thinking about current society – the more stark separation of inner and outer city residents was very plausible, when you look at how parts of American society are today, and how it could get much worse in times of crisis. (I would love to see this talked about in a book club, actually.)
Buzzkills: “Privy” is short for privilege in this context – but is also an antique word for toilet, which is hard to ignore.
The ending doesn’t leave the reader with a great deal of solutions – clearly there’s a future trajectory (to be explored in later books?), but for now the heroes are very much still on their journey.
The Source: NetGalley
Many apologies for the late post!
Disclaimer: Neither chocolate nor Synthamil was provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.