Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Review of Cherry Heaven by L.J. Adlington

Cherry Heaven by L.J. Adlington (Greenwillow Books, 2008)

In this sequel or companion to The Diary of Pelly D, two teenaged sisters move with their foster parents to the New Frontier. The war in the Five Cities may be over, but devastation and awful memories remain; Kat and Tanka’s parents, both identified as Galrezi and thus inferior, were rounded up and killed 10 years ago.

In a parallel story, teenaged Luka, a Galrezi, has been a virtual slave for the last 10 years, first digging in a quarry and then imprisoned under awful conditions in a flavored-water factory. She manages to escape, and makes her way home with vengeance on her mind.

Kat and Tanka’s new home is gorgeous, nestled next to a now-defunct cherry orchard, and it happens to be Luka’s former home, where her family was killed and where she was captured. Kat begins to question the carefully constructed lies about the fate of Luka’s family and about the New Frontier, while Luka tries to get revenge on the powerful people who have destroyed her life. Finally, they meet, and the truth about the New Frontier comes out – rather than being an open and tolerant place, Galrezi have been just as loathed as in the Five Cities. Rather than exterminate them, the New Frontier simply used them as work slaves.

Luka’s story is chilling – her story, told in first-person, has a vivid and compelling voice that forces the reader to imagine every brutality she describes. Kat’s story, on the other hand, is more distant. Perhaps it is because of the third-person narration or because Kat herself has tried to forget that horrible time 10 years ago when her parents desperately and vainly sought shelter before being dragged away and eventually killed, but the nightmare of the Five Cities wars is muted.

The parallels with the Holocaust and other incidents of genocide throughout history are obvious. Readers who haven’t read The Diary of Pelly D won’t know that the indelible Galrezi, Mazzini, or Atsumisi labels that all colonists must wear on their hands are the results of a tiny and meaningless gene tag. Somehow, the Atsumisi gene became the superior one, with Mazzini being tolerated and Galrezi being scum – all completely arbitrarily. Adlington does a good job of describing, both in this book and in Diary, how much chaos can come about from the natural but evil human instinct to despise those different from oneself, even if those differences are invisible until tested for and brightly labeled. There are plenty of logical problems, and Adlington doesn’t always get across the subtleties of how ordinary people react (or not) to thinly disguised evil being done under their noses – but most teens will find this a scary and thought-provoking read.

Ages 13 and up.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this! Before i read this i had no clue what the book was about! It is very confusing!