Dealing in Dreams

336p. S. & S. Mar. 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781481472142. POP
RedReviewStarGr 7 Up–Nalah, "Chief Rocka," heads a battle-ready crew of teenage girls known as Las Mal Criadas, brawling with other gangs to prove their dominance, patrolling the streets of Mega City, and enforcing the curfew established by Déesse, the city's ruler. Déesse's female dominated society is strictly stratified; young men are relegated to dancing in "boydegas" as entertainment for the girl crews, while most residents are "toilers," producing food pellets and "sueños" tablets, doled out to keep the populace compliant and on the precipice of addiction. Nalah is determined to leave the streets behind and join Déesse's inner circle, which means moving into a high-rise tower with Mega City's elite, who indulge in nightly parties and luxurious furnishings. When Déesse recruits Las Mal Criadas to scope out an infiltrating group outside of Mega City, the protagonist imagines their opportunity has finally arrived, but dangers and surprises abound beyond the city walls, testing Nalah's trust in her crew and their confidence in her. There is plenty of gritty action to propel readers through the plot, but it is Chief Rocka's internal struggles and vulnerabilities that are the most compelling and memorable. Rivera effectively presents the complexity of female relationships, which will resonate strongly with readers. Most notably, Rivera posits whether a society can really thrive when any one group dominates another, especially through violence and deception.
VERDICT A novel exploration of societal roles, gender, and equality through the eyes of captivating lead. Recommended for all young adult collections.

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