Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Marie Lu
Fiction  Series
For ages 13 and up
Penguin, 2011   ISBN: 978-0399256752

For her whole life June has had a life of comfort and even luxury. She has never had to worry about getting the plague, she has always had a beautiful home to live in, and a secure future lies ahead of her. It is true that her parents died in a car crash when she was a child, but June’s big brother took on the responsibility of caring for her, and she has always been sure of his love and support.

Now June, a member of one of the most elite families in the Republic, is one of its brightest young stars. She is the only young person to score a perfect score in the Trial, and though she is only fifteen is almost ready to graduate from Drake University. As she is at the peak of her physical fitness and an excellent student, the government has high hopes for June, and it won’t be long before she joins her brother serving in the Republic’s military. Like him she will do her part to protect her country from the Colonies, the neighboring country that is forever threatening the security of the Republic.

Day comes from the opposite end of the social spectrum. His family lives in one of the poorest parts of Los Angeles, a part that is in the grip of a plague outbreak at the moment. He failed the Trial, which means that he cannot get any further education.  Children like him are sent to ‘Labor Camps,’ or at least that is what the Republic tells its people. Day knows the truth. He was taken away from his family when he failed the Trial and, after he was subjected to unspeakable things, he was declared dead. Now he roams the streets with Tess, a friend, and he steals from the rich and from the government to provide for his family and others. Day is so successful as a thief and troublemaker that the Republic has decided that he is a criminal, and Day often sees his Wanted poster displayed on the huge digital bill boards that are all around the city.

Wanting to stay ‘dead,’ Day has not gone home since he was taken away by the government. He watches over his mother and brothers from a distance, bringing them gifts of food, clothes and other supplies in secret. Anxiously he watches when the soldiers, on a regular basis, enter his family home to test all the occupants for the plague. One day the soldiers stay in his house for longer than usual, and when they emerge they mark the door with a big red X that has a slash through it. Day’s little brother Eden is sick, and in desperation Day decides to steal plague cures from the hospital. The place is heavily guarded, but he manages to get in and get to the lab where all the medications are kept, only to find that they have no cures in supply. Day manages to escape with his life, but one of the Republic soldiers ends up dead. His name is Metias and he is June’s big brother.

After Metias’ death, the military waste no time. They summon June and expedite her graduation so that she can serve her country. Her first mission is to find her brother’s killer, the infamous Day. Fired by her thirst for vengeance, she goes undercover, pretending to be one of the many teens living on the streets of the city. Purely by chance she ends up saving a girl called Tess during a fight, and is injured in the process. Tess and her protector take care of June, tending to her wound and making sure she has food and water. There is something about Tess’s friend that June finds compelling, and in turn the boy is deeply attracted to the person he and Tess call the Girl.

June, the Girl, is just starting to understand the world that Tess and the boy live in when she makes an appalling discovery. The boy who has been taking care of her, the boy whom she let kiss her, is Day, her brother’s killer.

This story is set in a future where the United States is divided in two. The country on the west coast, the Republic, is a hard place to survive, and it is governed by hard and cruel people. A few citizens, people like June, have a good life. Most do not. Readers will be shocked when they, and June, learn the truth about the regime that governs the Republic, and they will find themselves hoping that both teens will survive the terrible situation that has been forced upon them.