Parched, by Georgia Clark, is an excellent newcomer to the field of YA dystopias, and even if you are feeling burned out by that sub-genre, give it a try! It is a very good read, with interesting twists that add just tons of zest (especially for those who enjoy unreliable narrations).
Tess spent the first fifteen years of her life in the comfort of Eden--a closed-off community of abundant resources. Then tragedy sent her fleeing into the Badlands outside Eden, where life is a hardscrabble struggle. After a year of fighting for survival, she's tracked down by an Edenite, who persuades her to come back to work to topple the dictators of Eden and bring justice (and little things like water) to the people of the Badlands. And Tess agrees...but she has her own reasons for going home again, ones her would-be revolutionary colleagues could never guess.
Back in Eden, and welcomed into her uncle's home, Tess meets his student Hunter, assigned by her uncle to help her catch up with her education. And there is attraction between the two of them...(I found him very geekily appealing myself).
And then, to summarize briskly and without spoilers, the revolutionaries, with Tess now on board, set to work to foil the evil plans of Eden to bring death to the people of the Badlands once and for all. There's exciting confrontations involving robots and high-tech gizmos, and there are game-changing secrets of the sort that those who like unreliable narrations will enjoy tremendously (even though it's easy to see the biggest of the revels coming, it is still cool in an intellectually and emotionally diverting way).
So--Dystopian romance with robotics, and a nice helping of social justice. Engaging central characters, who have a most interesting relationship indeed. Nice fast pacing, but with enough breaks in the action to satisfy those, like me, whose eyes blur when the pacing is too exciting. The world of Eden and the Badlands isn't in itself a desperately fresh premise, but the twists at work in the story makes it interesting. It's also pretty believable, which is depressing.
It deserves lots of teenaged readers, who will enjoy it immensly. And that includes younger YA readers (the 12 and 13 year olds)--there is some violent torture and death, and some romance, but not of an older readership kind. Though there is certainly space left for a sequel, it ends in a satisfying, non-cliffhangery place, which I appreciated.
(I also appreciated that the cover does not show Tess with impossibly beautiful hair looking all thin yet tough. I like the classic sci fic vib the domed cities gives off'; it is a nice change).
I am already thinking ahead to October, and the Cybils--this is definitely a possibility for my YA Speculative Fiction nomination.
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher