by Maria V. Snyder
In a dystopian future, Trella is a "scrub" responsible for cleaning and maintaining the pipes that service the "uppers" or higher castes. Everyone lives in a building only known as "Inside" - there are rumors of an "Outside" but no one's seen it in their lifetime. As a reader, you know that there are one of two possibilities: either they are underground, or in a spaceship. My money was on spaceship, pretty quickly on. Time is referenced to only in weeks, which gives everything a pleasantly alien feel - the characters refer to themselves as "x" weeks old, and seem to use the phrase "a hundred weeks" the way we'd refer to something as "a year or two." They speak about "one million weeks" the way we might say, "an eternity" and it's a commonly held belief that they'll find the way Outside when the clock reaches one million weeks. Children are raised in creches by their Care Mothers until they graduate to a job assignment. Overcrowding is a real problem on the lower levels, yet the "Pop Cops" still inexplicably test everyone to ensure that no one is making use of birth control. Failure to obey results in being fed to "Chomper" a.k.a. the ship's recycling system.
Cover thoughts: My copy had the original cover, a girl peeling through what looks like paper, which I wasn't terribly fond of. I'm not sure if the new cover is for the paperback, but I think it's a big improvement.
The story was a slow build-up to what for me was the super-obvious "reveal" of the novel. But I did like the character of Tris. She's petite, and not at all girly. She's a bit aloof from the other scrubs, hence her nickname, "Queen of the Pipes." Cogon, another one of the scrub workers, seems almost like a father figure to her. He arranges for her and her childhood friend Logan to meet with Domotor, a wheelchair-bound prophet looking for the Gateway which he believes will take them Outside. There is the mildest hint of romantic interest, when she meets Riley, one of the uppers who secretly agrees to help her search for plans to Gateway, which they hope will take them Outside. If this book was skewed for just a little older, I'd say we have the beginnings of a Trella/Logan/Riley love triangle, but that situation doesn't appear to rear its ugly head here. I'll recommend this for middle-grade readers and young teens.
I borrowed this book from the library.