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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Transferral, written by Kate Blair. Dancing Cat Books, 2015. $14.95 ages 12 and up

"There must be another way to find the girl, a safer way. There's another crate here, a step out of this nightmarish market. I slip in my haste to get out. Where's the exit? I've been spun around, I don't know which way is south. I'm hemmed in on all sides by the graffiti-strewn walls of the estate, by the foggy rain, by the people and the smell of sweat, the sour scent of alcohol on breath ... "

I have read a few dystopian novels in the past few months - they are not my usual fare. They were on the reading list for a book jury for the Canadian Children's Book Centre. Whenever I read the books on our list, I am astounded by the variety of books being published in Canada. I always read some that I was not likely otherwise pick up. It is a real learning experience for me, and for my fellow jury members.

One that I found intriguing is this one. Talia lives in London, and is the daughter of a man wanting to be Prime Minister. The reality of Talia's life is that she is shielded from the world of poverty and desperation that many 'criminals' inhabit.  She is living at a time when society's criminals are sentenced to be injected with a variety of diseases, dependent upon the crime they have committed. Shoplifting may result in a cold or the flu; more serious crimes might have the criminal infected with polio or something worse (is that possible?). She supports her father's position on crime - until she comes face to face with the results of a misunderstanding and machinery of political power.

Guilt is evident for all those who display any type of illness or disease. Their place in London is one of alienation and despair. There is much in Kate Blair's story to attract attention and to engage her intended audience ... conflict with one's parents, political corruption, romance, the contrast between those who have everything and those who have nothing, the treatment of those people considered criminal for any number of minor and unpredictable reasons. She maintains a quick pace and assures that her readers are carried along, always wondering what the final pages might bring.

Talia is complicated, living with the guilt that she could not save her mother and younger sister from a homicidal maniac. She wants to live in a world where such a thing will never happen again. But, she makes discoveries about all that she has been given to believe when she does what she thinks is right for Tig. only to discover that nothing was as it appeared. As she learns more, her motivation is strong to make things right. Life is not always black and white, as she has been led to believe.

The dystopian world built by the author is compelling, realistic,  and frightening. It left me asking myself some uncomfortable questions, as I am sure it will do for all readers. I think it would make a terrific readaloud for a middle years classroom, or an awesome novel study with a group of interested teens. It's worth your time and attention.

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