Stranger (The Change, Book #1), by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith
Targeted Age: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction/ Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Stranger is an enjoyable new young adult science-fiction novel that stands out among the many teen dystopian novels published since The Hunger Games made the New York Times bestseller list. Instead of predicting that humans can only respond to hardship with aggression and malice, Stranger imagines a world in which the best of human nature also comes out after disaster.
The story takes places generations after a catastrophic event rocked the world and wiped out most of its technology. Leftover radiation changes some people, giving them unique powers. The “change” tends to occur during times of strong hormonal upheaval—pregnancy, birth, adolescence, or menopause.
The City of Los Angeles has been reduced to a small frontier town now called, Las Anclas—full of diverse people— who work together, for the most part, to keep the town independent from despot King Voske’s nearby empire. In Voske’s empire, which looks a lot like the typical dystopian society, “the changed” are controlled by the king and used to keep the commoners in line.
While Las Anclas works to value all its citizens, there are those in the town who fear “the changed”. The town’s sovereignty depends on guarding the city walls against Voske’s army though. Volunteers, called Rangers, protect the city. The town needs every strong warrior and that means accepting any man or woman willing, including “the changed”.
Sheriff Elizabeth Crow rescues teen prospector, Ross Juarez, one of the stories main characters, during a shoot out with one of King Voske’s men. Now the people of Las Anclas must decide if they will protect Ross and let him stay—despite his change.
Brown and Smith fill their world with a diverse cast of fully developed characters, free of stereotypes, and full of progressive ideas about relationships. The story is told through five narrators: Ross, three teen girls, Mia, Jennie, and Felicité and another teen boy, Yuki— each with their own unique personality. Yuki is gay and his romance to another local boy is treated as if it’s any other romance. In fact, there are a couple of non-straight romances in the book, between minor characters that are also treated as completely ordinary.
The multiple viewpoints made me very aware of the complexities of a town’s politics. As Ross, Yuki, Mia, and Jennie rush to defend their town’s unique hopeful nature, I felt like I was right in the center of a story of action and danger hoping for the best to happen right along with them.
Hostage (The Change, Book # 2)
Target Age: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction / Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I won’t say too much about this book except that it satisfyingly continues the story of Las Anlas and Voske’s Gold Point City, again using multiple points of view to tell the story from many sides. I’m looking forward to the next 2 books in the series.