It was a little jarring after two years on the Round One panel for the Cybils Middle Grade Speculative Fiction to find that I had read only half of the finalists. Here’s one that I had read, thanks to Brandy and Charlotte’s reviews.
The Firefly Code by Megan Frasier Blakemore. Bloomsbury, 2016.
In the not-to-distant future, Mori and her friends have grown up literally in a bubble, the town of Old Harmonie, created by the Krita Corporation to protect its residents from the corruption and rampant disease of the outside world. Mori, Julia, Theo and Benji are all about to turn 13, the age when they will choose which talent or “latency” to have medically turned on in their brains. As the story opens, Theo is just having his turned on, while the others with slightly later birthdays are still trying to decide what will be most important to them. It’s also possible at this or earlier points for parents to have undesirable traits dampened, though Mori’s parents tell her they like her just fine as it is. Into a tight-knit circle of kids the same age who’ve grown up on the same street comes a new girl, Ilana. As Mori becomes close friends with Ilana, she begins to question what she’s been told all her life. Along with the normal difficulties of shifting friendships and growing up, Mori, granddaughter of one of the founding scientists of Old Harmonie, is trying to solve the mystery of why her grandmother’s best friend left.
Any reader who’s read books like The Giver will expect to find some elements of dystopia under the utopia, and this book, while much less sinister, is no exception. Deep and thoughtful explorations of character, friendship and practical applications of scientific ethics underlie a story filled with summer swimming, walks in the woods, and exploring abandoned houses. Also, lots of secrets. The group of friends is diverse both in ethnicity and in family structure – Mori has been raised to be proud of her mixed Japanese and Scottish heritage. The friendships drive this story as much as science fiction, leading to a story with very human faces. This is a moving and beautiful story that gradually shifts from familiar to uncomfortable as Mori and her friends uncover more of the truth about their situation.