Friday, March 24, 2017

Lizard Radio, by Pat Schmatz

Kivali has been sent to CropCamp by her foster mother to get a camp cert and have a chance at a future.  She’s learning skills but suspects that the camp’s purpose is more mind control than actual education.  And she also finds that she likes the kickshaw that they take each week just a bit too much.  Meanwhile, she is trying to figure out if the Lizard Radio she hears in her head is what makes her so different from the other kids or if it is her sense of not belonging, of being neither one nor the other but both?

An utterly alien setting that claims to be about humans but takes place in a very alternate reality. Far more than a dystopian, Schmatz explores themes of non-conformity from the obvious (Kivali is transgendered) to more subtle questions of career choices and romantic decisions.  Young Adult books are always full of these things, but in this exotic and strange environment, the whole thing resonates more.

The novel's originality is also its primary weakness.  Full of original slang and jargon, the story can be hard to track as the lexicon is never explained (but instead has to be determined through context). The story is complicated enough without the additional struggle to understand the language (which simultaneously gives the book its unique flavor). There are multiple sections of the story that I simply didn’t understand.  That can grow frustrating.  Still I admire the originality and the ambition.


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