Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Stephanie Diaz
For ages 13 and up
St Martin's Griffin, 2014   ISBN: 978-1250041173

Five hundred years ago the humans living on planet Kiel did nothing to prevent the pollution that they created from destroying the ozone layer that was protecting their home. Because of this toxic acid leaking from the nearby moon was able to enter Kiel’s atmosphere causing widespread death and destruction on the planet’s surface. The humans had no choice but to escape underground until some kind of shield could be built to protect the planet. People moved into four underground sectors called Crust, Mantle, Lower and Core. Once the shield was built the leaders, the Developers, set about moving people back to the Crust, Mantel, Lower and Surface sectors. The core was reserved for the elite. Not surprisingly, the people did not want to be moved to these places where life was hard and dangerous. The people on the Surface were particularly angry because they were closest to the moon, and the shield was not completely effective at keeping the acid at bay.

   There was a rebellion, which was firmly and cruelly quashed. From the ashes of the old society arose something new, a new world order. Everyone, other than the people living in the core and those who work for the establishment, have been forced into a life that is, to all intents and purposes, slavery. Young girls are compelled to have babies that they never see, and the children are forced to toil in work camps until they are sixteen. At that time they find out if they will be given the opportunity to move to the Core, or if they will be terminated.

   The choosing process is called Extraction and not surprisingly every young person hopes that they will do well in the tests when they are sixteen. They know that once they are chosen and once they become a citizen of the Core, they will be able to live a life free from want and danger.

   It is now Clementine’s turn to be tested. She desperately wants to get away from the Surface and from the work camp where she barely manages to survive. On the Surface she has no proper home, very little food to eat, and she has to work long hours in the fields raising food for the people living in the Core. She has worked hard to do well in school and has proven over and over that she has the intellectual ability to be a great scientist or doctor. The only problem is that she does not want to leave Logan, the boy she has grown to love. Logan failed his Extraction test and will, in the not too distant future, be killed by the Developers. Clementine feels guilty for wanting to be chosen for Extraction. She then decides that what she has to do is to be chosen and then win favor with Commander Charlie, the leader of Kiel. Hopefully she will be able to persuade Commander Charlie that Logan is worth saving.

   Clementine shows that she has a lot of “Promise” in her tests and she is chosen for Extraction. Leaving Logan breaks her heart but she cannot refuse the opportunity to leave the Surface, an opportunity that she hopes will make it possible for her to be reunited with Logan.  

   Clementine, like most people, does not trust the Developers, but she has believed the story about the moon, and she has believed what she has been told about the Core; that it is a place where she can finally be free. She is not there long before it becomes clear that she has been lied to. Though she has healthcare, ample food, clothes, a real bed to sleep on, and so many other unheard of comforts, the Developers have their own agenda. Clementine is not going to be free to make her own choices. Instead, she is going to have to be submissive, to do what she is told, and to allow the Developers to control her as they see fit. Commander Charlie likes his citizens to be compliant. They must not question his orders or seek to upset the status quo. They must never think that perhaps the establishment is wrong. Though Clementine has never had a family, and though she has been subjected to unspeakable cruelties, she still has a will of her own and she does not want to be controlled. Clementine is going to fight for free will and she is going to fight for the truth.

   This powerful book is full of surprising and disturbing revelations that will shock readers. Clementine’s world is a terrible place, and yet she does not give up hoping that she can find happiness there, that there is a way to get what is rightfully hers.