Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Landry Park

Landry Park

Bethany Hagen
Fiction
For ages 13 and up
Dial, 2014   ISBN: 978-0803739482

Two hundred years ago China and her allies invaded the west coast of the United States. Rich and poor Americans united to defeat this enemy, and managed to stop the progress of the Easterners before they could cross the Rockies. Now the land from the Rockies to the Pacific is in the hands of the Eastern Empire, and life in the rest of America is very different from that which existed before the conflict with the Easterners. Soon after the war ended, another war began, this time between Americans. The poorer classes rose up against a group of wealthy people, the gentry, and they were brutally crushed. For their audacity the poor who survived were punished, stripped of the right to own property, to get an education, or to receive medical treatment. They would “be like bugs on the ground, without a future and forever rootless.”

    Today the power in the country rests in the hands of the gentry, specifically in the hands of a small group that calls itself the Uprisen. Descended from the gentry who fought against the Rootless two centuries before, they are the ones who really control the country, crushing any person or group that threatens the gentry way of life.

   Madeline Landry’s ancestor, Joseph Landry, invented a nuclear charge that made it possible for Americans, who lost access to oil after the war with the Easterners, to have power in their homes and businesses without putting carbon into the atmosphere and harming Earth’s fragile environment further. The charges allow people to have small nuclear powered electrical plants in their homes and businesses, and when the charges are depleted Rootless workers come and change them.

   Though Madeline is proud of her ancestor and loves her home, Landry Park, she hates the fact that she is the heir in her family. Her role in life is to marry well and to provide an heir so that family name can live on. She must live by the code of conduct that has been drummed into her since she was a little girl and uphold the gentry by keeping “order, elegance, prosperity” alive and well. Though some of her gentry peers have no problem not going to college so that they can make an advantageous marriage, Madeline wants to go to college. She has no interest in marrying and hates being paraded around by her mother at parties and events. She does not care about clothes and hairstyles. She wants to control her own destiny, but her father will not allow her to do so. Like him, she has to marry to help the estate, and that is all there is to it.

   It looks as if Madeline is going to have to toe the line when another heir, Cara, is attacked when she goes outside on her own during a party. Cara insists that her attacker was a Rootless man, but Madeline, who knows Cara and her ways well, knows that the girl is lying.

   Alexander Landry, who is eager to crush the restless Rootless, is delighted to have an excuse to move against them, and soldiers are sent into the Rootless ghetto to beat the residents and to remind them that their existence is dependent on the goodwill of the gentry. Appalled at what is happening, Madeline tries to get Cara to tell the truth, but Cara refuses to do so.

   Then Madeline meets David Dana, a young man her mother is eager for her to marry. On the surface David seems to be like all the other gentry young men, but then Madeline discovers that he is a lot like her. He has no patience for parties and affectation, and he is sympathetic to the Rootless cause. What she never expects is that his sympathy is such that he is willing to do what he can to help them.

   In this fascinating and sometimes shocking futuristic tale, the author explores what it means to stand by your beliefs, no matter what the costs. Madeline’s story is full of surprises, some of which will appall readers, and it also explores her inner struggles as she tries to figure out who she is and what she wants in life. 

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