Review Detail

Kids Fiction 207
Hits a bit close to home!
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
It's 2096, Cleo Porter and her parents never leave their apartment. It has no doors, no windows, and only a port where deliveries come into the apartment. This is because of a horrible flu that devastated the world in 2027, Influenza D. It mutated with each new case, so a cure couldn't be found. The world locked down, and huge monolithic apartment complexes took over. Cleo attends online school with a virtual teacher, Mrs. VAIN (Virtual Adaptive Instructional Network) and is working on a strenuous program to become a doctor like her mother. Her mother, a surgeon, performs surgery by manipulating drones, and her father constructs code for virtual environments. One day, when Cleo is deep in her studies, there is a package delivered to the apartment. It's got the right address, but the name is wrong; there's no Miriam Wendemore-Adisa. Since the delivery drones never make mistakes, Cleo doesn't have much luck contacting customer support or finding out much about the intended recipient, and she worries that the medicine that she discerns in the package is desperately needed. Her parents and her best friend are no help, so when she finally locates the woman's address, she makes a shocking choice: she will leave the apartment and deliver the medicine herself. Managing to get out of the delivery chute with a pillowcase full of supplies, she finds herself in the labyrinthine hallways of her building, battling observation and cleaning drones. She manages to make her way outside, but the world is quite a shocking place if you've never been there before. Luckily, she meets a 102 year old woman, Angie, who refused to be locked inside and scrapes together an existence with the help of Paige, a child she found outside a building where the systems had shut down. Paige gets food from the nearby fields and manages to avoid the drones that harvest it. Cleo is fascinated by the fact that the world is so huge, that Paige has scratches and sunburn from being outside, and by the fact that Angie would rather live outside than be inside getting help for her age related ailments. She is also determined to get back in order to deliver the package. Angie and Paige help her get back to the building, but it is a struggle to actually get back inside. Even if she does, will she be able to find the woman in time, and be able to return to her parents?
Good Points
Given our current situation (I read this on 6/23/20; Burt addresses the pandemic in an end note), this creeped me out big time. The parents even talk about how they met virtually, then got permission to get married and were delivered to their new apartment in a pod. Ahhhhhhgh! I'm with Angie on this one; I need a lot of outside time. Mrs. VAIN was a fantastic teacher, with her massive databases and elderly librarian persona (she wears a lavender cardigan), and the beginning of the book talks a lot about Cleo's medical education. This ties in nicely with the end of the book, which I don't want to spoil. There was a nice bit with her and her best friend hanging out at a virtual park, plenty of adventure both in and out of the building, and a lot of interesting philosophical ramifications to how a pandemic should be treated. Interesting, interesting book, and perfect timing!

This is a great dystopian novel for tween readers, and would be great paired with Perry's Scavengers, about people living outside of a protective bubble around a cit. This did remind me of a book I read years ago but can't locate-- there was a plague of some kind and children were no longer allowed out to go to school, and there were high stakes on line testing. Burt is to be commended for his prescience in writing this book-- he had to have come up with the idea long before the pandemic! I love that Burt writes stand alone titles on disparate themes.
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