Seventeen-year-old Tempest Torres has lived on the AgraStar farm north of Atlanta since she was found outside the gates at the age of five. Now she’s part of the security force guarding the fence and watching for scavengers—people who would rather steal genetically engineered food from the company than work for it. When a group of such rebels accidentally sets off an explosion in the research compound, it releases into the air a blight that kills every living thing in its path—including humans. With blight-resistant seeds in her pocket, Tempest teams up with a scavenger boy named Alder and runs for help. But when they finally arrive at AgraStar headquarters, they discover that there’s an even bigger plot behind the blight—and it’s up to them to stop it from happening again. A fast-paced action-adventure story that is Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake meets Nancy Farmer’s House of the Scorpion.
BLIGHT by Alexandra Duncan is the next young adult dystopian novel that will set your world on fire. Torrest Tempest has grown up virtually a slave to AgraStar, one of the conglomerate agriculture companies running the country. AgraStar is known for crushing any competitors, even those outside of AgraStar’s walls who are merely growing food for themselves. The message is clear: Join AgraStar or suffer. Tempest has bought into AgraStar’s message, praising them for saving her at a young age and giving her a place to live. One day, in the midst of a mission gone wrong, a deadly toxin is released in the air, killing the plants and everyone around her. Tempest gets away, but she’s captured by scavengers, and everything she has come to accept about her world is brought into question.
The plot of this novel is very exciting and chock-full of action. The book begins with Tempest in the middle of a sniping shift and takes off from there. There is never a moment where the story slows or drags, but instead it is constantly picking up momentum. Despite adhering to the conventions of the genre, there are two big twists towards the end that are truly shocking. It is a page-turner of a book.
The only minor critique I have is how long it takes Tempest to realize the truth of AgraStar. She sees firsthand the atrocities they commit, not only with the blight, but also with her father. Clearly, she has been brainwashed, growing up on AgraStar’s compound and being fed their propaganda. However, she is also smart and resourceful, which is why I think she should have recognized the truth of the situation earlier on, even if she didn’t want to admit it out loud to Alder.
Alder is one of my favorite characters in the story. He is such an unusual ally, but he is innately likeable. I love the relationship he establishes with Tempest. It may not be friendship exactly, but they do take care of one another. Tempest is an absolute underdog and the whole I time I couldn’t help but root for her. I would love to see what these two could get up to in a sequel. Hopefully, there will be a whole series to follow as there is so much left to explore in this world, including what will happen to Eli, Isabel, Orelia, and the rest of the scavengers.
Overall, BLIGHT is an incredible and exhilarating novel that left me wondering if society could truly end up on this path of self-destruction. Duncan is a fabulous novelist and BLIGHT is certainly a book to be read.