Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Bethany Wiggins
For ages 13 and up
Walker, 2013   ISBN: 978-0802734181

When Fiona wakes up she finds herself in her bedroom and she soon figures out that something is very wrong. The floor in her room is filthy and the windows are broken and the rest of the house is in a similar same condition. When Fiona looks at her reflection in the bathroom mirror, she doesn’t see her thirteen year old self. Instead, she sees a girl who is much older. Then there is the tattoo on her arm, which looks rather like a spider with ten legs. She cannot remember being tattooed and yet the tattoo is there and somehow she knows that she must cover it up.

   While Fiona is putting concealer on her arm she hears someone moving around in the house and soon after a feral human, a beast-like creature, tries to attack her. Fiona manages to get away by climbing out of the bedroom window, but she does see the beast’s face for a moment and is horrified when she recognizes that the face belongs to her twin brother.

   As she walks through the streets of Denver, Fiona sees that most of the houses are abandoned and it is clear that something truly appalling has happened, but she cannot remember any of it. Has she been asleep all this time? Fiona’s ignorance almost gets her killed when night falls and she is rescued by a child who, like Fiona, has a tattoo on her arm. The child, Arrin, lives in the sewers and she is a wild thing who will do anything to survive. Fiona learns that people with tattoos are being hunted by the militia, and everyone is being hunted by the raiders, the beasts. Her world is now a dangerous place where only the few, the people living behind the wall, are safe.

   While trying to rescue Arrin’s brother from the militia, Fiona is captured. The militia members are thrilled when they see that Fiona has ten lines on her tattoo. This means that she is a level ten, and level tens that haven’t “turned” are in high demand. Fiona still has no idea what is going on and then she recognizes one of the militia men. Bowen used to be her neighbor and he knows her well enough that he recognizes her as well. He is the one who explains that the people with tattoos are those who were vaccinated against the bee flu years ago. Unfortunately, the vaccine had a side effect; it turned people into beasts that are violent and dangerous. The militia’s job is to kill the beasts, and to capture the tattooed people who have not yet turned into beasts so that they can be examined by scientists. People with ten lines on their tattoo are level tens, and they are typically the most dangerous when they turn into beasts.

   Bowen could turn Fiona in, but he decides to do otherwise. Without really meaning to, he becomes her protector and together they try to hide. The problem is that too many people are looking for them, and too many people have their own ideas of what should happen to Fiona.

   In this gritty, surprising, and often terrifying book, readers will visit a world where the divide between the haves and the have nots is enormous. Suffering and cruelty are the norm, and only the strongest survive. As more and more information about Fiona’s past is revealed, we come to appreciate how broken her world has become.

   Readers who like thrillers and dystopian novels are going to enjoy this exciting story.