MiNRS, by Kevin Sylvester (Margaret K. McElderry Books, middle grade, Sept 2015) is a grim survival story, in which a group of kids stranded on a mining colony in space must fight for their lives when the colony comes under attack, and all the grown-ups are killed. It's tremendously exciting, but not for the faint of heart.
An earth depleted of resources turned to a roving planetoid, Perseus, for raw materials, and a mining colony was established there. Christopher is one of the kids whose parents signed on for the mission, and he takes his life in the semi-terraformed colony pretty much for granted; the food isn't bad, he gets along with his parents just fine, and although the pool of kids with whom to be friends is kind of small, he has his best buddy, smart and creative Elena, to hang with. When the story begins, the miners are on edge because Perseus' orbit is about to take it out of Earth's reach for two months. There's enough food to last, and things should proceed as normal, but there's never been a blackout like this before.
And the grown-ups are right to worry. As the colony's inhabitants gather outside to watch the earth set over Perseus' horizon, beginning the blackout, the mining colony comes under a fearsome attack--and there they all are on the surface, sitting ducks. Christopher's father forces him to retreat underground as the death toll mounts up above, and so Christopher finds himself alone in the tunnels, with only some cryptic clues from his father about what to do next. Other kids, wounded and shell-shocked, and traumatized by seeing their friends and families killed, have made it down below ground too...and now they must figure out how they are going to survive.
Survival isn't just a matter of holding out till Earth can be contacted. The attackers have settled in up above, and are loading with ore. Once they're ready to leave, they might well decide to blast Perseus to smithereens.....and so sabotage is necessary. As the kids learn to use the resources they have left, they discover a dark secret about their colony that strains the bonds of trust they've been building. Christopher finds himself the leader of the group, and with Elena at his side (but can she be trusted?) he tries to figure out what his father was trying to tell him, and keep the kids alive.
It's fairly brutal. The attack isn't sugar coated, and it's a wonder the kids are able to think rationally at all after what they go through. The days that follow aren't a picnic either, and there's little comfort to be had from appreciating group camaraderie, because of various stresses on the group. It's not a fun, hpyer intelligent kids fighting and succeeding against impossible odds while playing clever tricks on the bad guys sort of story. It's much more believably dark.
But it is gripping, and page-turning, and utterly engrossing and vivid! The science-fictional setting is utterly believable, and not just fun window dressing. So if you or any kids you know want a break from unicorn kittens, this is a book to check out. Especially good, I think, for kids who like sci fi tech and first person shooter games. It's one for older midde grade kids (11 years old or so); younger readers might find it all a bit too much.
There's diversity here too- I think the brown kid on the right of the cover is a girl, and based on Elena's last name, Rosales, which suggests she's Latina (there's no description of her in the text), I think that's her being shown. Other kid's names suggest additional diversity.