Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

One of Us

One of Us

Jeannie Waudby
For ages 13 and up
Running Press Kids, 2015   ISBN: 978-0762457991

Fifteen year old K Child has had a hard life. When she was only two years old her parents were killed when a Brotherhood terrorist bomb exploded in Central Station. For four years K lived with grandmother down by the coast, and when she died K ended up in the foster care system. K, like so many other children in the system, was bounced from family to family for several years. Now she is living in a halfway house in New City. She goes to school but has a friendless and solitary life.

One morning K is about to get on a subway train to get to school when another bomb goes off. When she comes to she is under the train. K screams for help and like a miracle a hand reaches down for her and a man helps her climb up onto the platform. K very nearly ended up being a victim of a suicide bomber, just as her parents were.

The man who saves K is called Oskar and over the next few days he and K run into each other a few times in the square, and at a nearby diner which is near the station. K ends up telling Oskar about her life, which is now even worse because her school has kicked her out. When she turns sixteen K will be on her own without a home of any kind.

Oskar then invites K to join the group he works for, to help him keep tabs on members of the Brotherhood. What he needs is an insider at the Institute, the Brotherhood school, who will identify which of the students and teachers are potential members of a militant cell that carries out attacks on citizens and citizen targets.

Wanting to stay close to Oskar and to please him, K agrees to go undercover. Another plus is that she will still be getting an education and she will be able to study art, a subject that is not offered at citizen schools. Oskar creates a new identity for K and she becomes Verity Nekton. The story is that Verity is the daughter of Brotherhood activists who died during the Strife. Verity has been in care since her parents, died but now her Brotherhood roots have been rediscovered and she is to be reunited with her people.

Wearing the feminine clothes favored by Brotherhood girls and women K - or Verity as she is now - is taken to the Institute and she becomes a student there. The two girls she shares a room with are very nice and it is hard to imagine that they, or any of the other people that Verity meets at the school, could possibly be dangerous. With the exception of the school’s leader, Brer Magnus. He is definitely more than a little scary.

Verity feels bad about spying on the people at the school but she does what Oskar asks of her and tells him about one of the students, who, she thinks, could be a potential agitator. Then Oskar’s nice demeanor starts to change and he becomes harder and colder. He is also more demanding, and when Verity expresses reservations about doing what he asks, he tells her that he has wiped out her former identity. K Child is dead and gone and now Verity has no choice but to play out the role she agreed to take on. Oskar has used Verity from the very beginning. He sought her out because she was alone and friendless. He manipulated her into joining his cause and now she is trapped.

With every passing day Verity is more reluctant to spy on the people at the school. They are kind to her, and supportive. For the first time in her life she has friends. For the first time she has met a boy whom she really cares for. Verity even begins to see the point of view of the people who belong to the Brotherhood. They are singled out, they are persecuted, and they have many reasons to be unhappy with the status quo. Verity’s “gut feeling” is that none of these people are a threat and she wants out.

In this surprising, sometimes deeply painful book, we meet a girl who is caught between the extremists of two factions. When we first meet her she is sure that the members of the Brotherhood are the enemy. She has always been told that all of them are out to bring down society. However, over time, she comes to see that are two sides to every story and not everyone in the Brotherhood is out to hurt others. Sometimes the worst enemy of all is the one person you trust the most.