Sixteen-year-old Neva has been trapped since birth. She was born and raised under the Protectosphere, in an isolated nation ruled by fear, lies, and xenophobia. A shield "protects" them from the outside world, but also locks the citizens inside. But there's nothing left on the outside, ever since the world collapsed from violent warfare. Or so the government says...
Neva and her best friend Sanna believe the government is lying and stage a "dark party" to recruit members for their underground rebellion. But as Neva begins to uncover the truth, she realizes she must question everything she's ever known, including the people she loves the most.
My Verdict: Fab dystopian with excellent world building and realistic characters.
Bleak though Neva's world is, being lost in it was a thrilling experience. Grant has the knack of sharing information concisely through tiny details and light touches. It's great to read something set in such an intriguing and different world without a ton of 'essential' information being offered via the handy outsider or history lesson. There are plenty of things I still don't know about this world, and I would love to read a sequel or companion novel set in the same context, but I'm intrigued rather than frustrated.
The characters are beautifully drawn and engaging. Neva has our sympathies from the start, with her torn loyalties and desire to rebel. There are many interesting characters in the novel, many of whom impact on Neva's growing unease and isolation at some point. The question of who can be trusted is raised multiple times in this story and the plot offers more than one twist which I didn't see coming. Ultimately, it's a classic dystopian tale of the clash between totalitarianism and the individual. Neva's position as that individual is precarious and her resolve is clear, but so is her fear - particularly her fear for others. Although Neva's strength and determination are admirable, it is her weaker moments and her uncertainty due to possible effects on others that endear her to us.
This is a pacy thriller, speeding us along Neva's seemingly inevitable journey into rebellion, largely due to the immediacy of the present tense narration and the text's efficiency. There isn't a single wasted word and Grant is therefore able to compel Neva on in her twisting quest while also fleshing out characters and setting enough to make this an involving read.
Overall, I'd recommend this as a thrilling and engaging story above all, with great world building and characterisation. It's instructive for those of us seeking to write speculatively, and is likely to be thought-provoking, especially for teens, on the tension between government protection and control. I'll certainly be recommending it to my students.