Children of Eden
Atria, 2016 288 pages
Rowan is an illegal second child who has spent her entire life in hiding. Twin brother, Ash, returns each day from school and shares with Rowan information about the real world. Even though she was never allowed the eye shield that all residents of Eden are given upon birth which allows them to be scanned, thus proving their legitimacy, Rowan can't take it any more and scales the wall of her prison/home and explores the city. Eden was constructed years ago because of the effects of nuclear destruction. All animals and plant life have been destroyed and the earth is uninhabitable outside of the city. As Rowan explores, she encounters a policeman who miraculously does not turn her in and next she meets Ash's best friend Wren, with whom she immediately makes a connection. After a further elicit encounter with Wren the following night, Rowan becomes aware that her secret is out. She escapes with her mother, only to have tragedy strike in the worse possible way. Rowan is now on her own and extremely vulnerable. She escapes the authorities through a hole in the wall of the city. The other side brings an unexpected haven, as well as a surprising new group of comrades. Still, the danger is not over as Rowan discovers that her beloved and physically weak brother has been jailed. Rowan must leave the safety of the underground in order to rescue Ash and help the citizens of Eden see the truth behind what they have been led to believe is their history.
Joey Graceffa is a YouTuber who previously has written only a memoir. This is his first attempt at fiction and it is proving to be very popular with teen readers. Among the Hidden meets Divergent in this dystopian novel with a twist. The elements of the now-classic teen dystopian adventure appear to be present: a bleak society ravaged by the effects of environmental carelessness with teens out to survive and expose the corruption of the elders, all while a love triangle is working itself out. The twist comes within the love triangle, which features Rowan struggling with her feelings between a girl and a boy, reflecting the current blending of traditional romance and gender in today's young people. Rowan is a likable, brave, and interesting character for whom readers will root. I like that the "Beth March" of the story is the twin brother Ash, adding a further gender-bend to tradition. Readers will understand Mom's motivations for forcing Rowan into hiding and will be properly horrified at what happens to her. The true villain behind Rowan's exposure will be a surprise, as will other plot twists. Eden is an interesting society and although it feels like other civilizations within this genre, it is fully realized and unique. The story barrels along and the action never flags, right up to the very end, where the reader is led to new surprises and a probable sequel. Children of Eden will appeal to readers of both genders and the cover is enticing. A highly readable and action-filled story within a crowded genre with much teen appeal by an unexpected author.