Age of Order
For fans of YA dystopian novels, Julian North’s Age of Order will be a huge hit! The female protagonist in this story, Daniela Machado, lives in Bronx City, one of the poorer parts of the Five Cities, collectively know previously as New York. We initially see her running for her life through the City, desperately trying to avoid being caught by a drone. Luckily for her, running is her dream and her life, and she is exceptionally good at it. Living in such a dissolute environment, Daniela has learned to be protective of the only people she fully loves and trusts: Aba, her grandmother; Mateo, her brother; and her best friend and sister of choice, Kortilla.
In a surprising twist of fortune, Daniela is later offered a place in an elite, private school in Manhattan. Once there, she meets wealthy and privileged elitists who are not too impressed with her arrival. One of the interesting parts of Age of Order is that being wealthy and elite is not necessarily about status and upbringing, it is about science. With genetically modified genes that create the “perfect” human, a highborn, flaws are a thing of the past in their world. Therefore, having a non-enhanced pupil, nicknamed “Nopes,” in their school causes quite an uproar.
Through Daniela’s eyes, we see the struggles and triumphs that she deals with on a daily basis, from trying to work out who she can trust enough to make friends with, to following her dreams on the race track as well as her continual fight for her brother, Mateo, who is the real reason that she puts up with so much adversity. Daniela has a very strong personality. North does a great job in making his characters relatable and “real” while throwing in enough modern-day references that the reader will not forget that the story is based in the future. The reader will become immersed in their life and their troubles. The action and insight is often thrilling, delivering everything a reader could hope for. North delivers high-tech rivalries, often with dark hilarity, and edge-of-the-seat emotions with partisan politics, family conflicts, chase scenes, and class conflicts. It is difficult not feel like a bystander in the halls or streets as the imagery is so vivid. Although most of the major characters are teenagers, North’s insights into their thoughts and feelings are truly on point. Even though adults generally have only a minor role, they are written so well that you cannot help but know their personalities and work out who is talking behind closed doors by their mannerisms alone. The same can be said for the locations and general environments. Although this book is set in a future we all hope would not exist, there are certainly elements of the story that are all too real already.
Oh, and surprise! This is North’s DEBUT novel. Unbelievable really. Adults young and old would love this book. I am not normally a reader of dystopian fiction, but this one had me hooked!