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The Loop by Ben Oliver
Chicken House / Scholastic, Inc.
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Trapped in the Loop—a brutal juvenile prison run by an artificial intelligence known as Happy—for 736 days, 16-year-old Luka Kane is on death row. His only chance of survival is to participate in potentially fatal medical trials in exchange for a delayed execution date. After a medical trial turns half of Luka’s fellow teen inmates into crazed killers, a sudden electrical outage in the Loop gives the frightened survivors a rare shot at escape. But their journey into the war-torn city is fraught with peril as they are hunted by the military forces, deranged citizens, and one another.
The Loop is a dystopian thriller whose many eerily contemporary and near-future plot elements—bioengineering, mass surveillance, climate change, widespread drug abuse—coalesce to create a compulsively readable, action-packed narrative. Repetitive, day-to-day prison life at the book’s beginning allows for worldbuilding to occur gradually and without overwhelming the reader. The teens’ cinematic, high-stakes fight for survival in a world full of terrifying adversaries keeps the suspense constant, with some disturbing moments of violence and death. A cliffhanger ending will have readers clamoring for the next installment in the planned trilogy.
A dark, intense read perfect for fans of the TV show Black Mirror, James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, or Emmy Laybourne’s Monument 14.
Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed by Laurie Halse Anderson
Publication Date: June 2, 2020
Diana of Themyscira has a memorable 16th birthday, just not in the way she expected. While rescuing refugees off the coast of her homeland, she accidentally becomes one herself when she crosses the magical barrier that shields the Amazons’ island from the rest of the world. Placed in a Greek refugee camp, Diana meets Steve and Trevor–a married couple working for the United Nations–who recognize her many talents. They help Diana relocate to New York, where she is determined to fight the glaring social injustices she finds there.
This fast-paced graphic novel immerses readers in the origin story of a familiar character, albeit with a gritty, contemporary twist. Diana is a relatable teenager, one who is both fearless and a bit of a klutz. She often feels lost and different, especially in New York, where she struggles to understand American culture and many people’s seeming indifference to neighborhood issues like hunger, poverty, and homelessness. The story features a diverse cast of characters in terms of race, ethnicity, age, gender, and sexual orientation.The engaging illustrations by Leila Del Duca help keep the plot moving at a brisk pace.
Share this with students interested in the teen origins stories of superheroes, including Kami Garcia’s Raven, as well as Nic Stone’s Shuri: A Black Panther Novel. Readers intrigued by Diana’s refugee experience might be interested in other stories of young refugees, such as Victoria Jamieson’s graphic novel When Stars are Scattered.
–Kathleen J. Barker
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