Orca. (Orca Soundings). Aug. 2023. 112p. pap. $10.95. ISBN 9781459836600.
Gr 7 Up–Society has mostly collapsed, leaving a scarred world infested with “Boots” who roam about enforcing the interests of the rich. Food and water is scarce. With Mom dead, teen Brick is alone and has little use for other people. Brick is nonbinary and feels comfortable doing an “impression” of either a boy or girl. Throughout this story, they present as a boy, though this is not instrumental to the plot. On the run from soldiers out to arrest them for stealing supplies, Brick contrives to stow away on a spaceship bound for the moon, but not before encountering Amar, a local enforcer presented as a sort of gentle giant, not bright but ruthlessly strong and ultimately goodhearted, who wants to go, too. The two manage to remain hidden until after takeoff but become caught up in an attack by pirates. Battling panic attacks from their fear of space, Brick, along with Amar and an impish artificial intelligence, helps save the crew and subdue the pirates. Occasionally Amar’s unrefined speech—“You is good, Brick”—can seem awkward. Worldbuilding is light on detail, but adequate to the story. First-person narrator Brick is well fleshed out and the action is consistently brisk. The author identifies as trans and queer, which will resonate with teens. The book is written at a third grade reading level.
VERDICT With a relatable and compelling sci-fi/dystopian narrative, this should be an easy pitch for middle or high school reluctant readers.

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