Amulet, 2016 456 pages
Denise is in a panic. A large comet is set to arrive on Earth TODAY destroying the atmosphere and she can't get her drug addicted mother out of the apartment and to their Netherlands's shelter. Denise is autistic and her condition makes the end of the world that much more difficult to process. To make matters worse, her beloved sister is missing and Denise has no idea where she is or if she is safe. Finally, Mom is ready to go and on the way to the shelter they help a former teacher and her wife get to a generation ship, which can take them safely away from the Earth's atmosphere. In order to stay on the ship Denise must prove herself to be useful, but, despite her attempts, once mom gets caught taking forbidden resources from the ship and using drugs, they get kicked off. Denise must find her way back on the ship and try to locate her sister before it leaves the planet Earth. New friends make trying to get on the ship that much more desirable, as does the complete destruction of her flooded country. With people dying in the temporary shelters and no hope in sight, will Denise be able to bring her family together and secure a safe spot for them on the space ship?
Dutch author Duyvis know all about autism: she has been living her whole life with it. Its no wonder that she so accurately portrays Denise's thought processes and struggles. The reader really sees the end of the world through the eyes of some one who finds regular day-to-day life challenging and at time bewildering. I love that the main character of this book is autistic and rises above her comfort zone to to do the right thing and help those that she loves. Further diversity is displayed in the transgender character of the sister, as well as both sisters being bi-racial. It is also interesting that the mother is a drug addict and Denise, although she struggles with deciphering life, often has to be the responsible one in her family. Duyvis sets this dystopian novel in the 2035 as a cautionary tale of what could be. It makes the reader think what would they do if placed in the same situation and to ponder if one human life is more valuable than another. Does Mom deserve a spot on the ship if she is a drug addict? How about Iris if she can't bear children? Most of all, Denise. Does her autism and lack of useful skills mean she is of less value than, for instance, the agricultural expert? All of these questions will occur to the reader and will make this book a great choice for book discussion. My main complaint is that it really is too long. It is dialog heavy and character intensive. The concept and plot are very cool, but could have been conveyed in about half the pages. The book has a clear-cut ending, but I could see sequels if there was a readership. A different take on a popular genre.