STARRED REVIEW
May 28, 2019

Explore a new world with two YA tech thrillers

Feature by

Two new YA thrillers set in the not-so-distant future explore the complex relationships between humans and their digital creations.

STARRED REVIEW
May 28, 2019

Explore a new world with two YA tech thrillers

Feature by

Two new YA thrillers set in the not-so-distant future explore the complex relationships between humans and their digital creations.

May 28, 2019

Explore a new world with two YA tech thrillers

Feature by

Two new YA thrillers set in the not-so-distant future explore the complex relationships between humans and their digital creations.

Share this Article:

Teens and technology are natural companions, in part because both are drawn to challenging limits and pushing boundaries. Two new YA thrillers set in the not-so-distant future explore the complex relationships between humans and their digital creations.


At a theme park called the Kingdom, dreams come true, ugliness is against the rules and everything ends happily ever after. Teenage Ana, a cyborg princess known as a Fantasist, lives with her sisters in the Kingdom, where she spends her days entertaining guests with her beautiful appearance, delightful manners and unfading smile. Surely a creation like Ana, designed to be flawless in every way, couldn’t be capable of murder. But when a park employee is found dead, Ana is the most likely suspect.

Starting an hour after the murder and then jumping back and forth in time, The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg alternates between Ana’s voice and a series of interview transcripts, court documents and news clippings. Theme park aficionados might smile in recognition—or wince in pain—as their favorite attractions become instruments of dystopian horror. Could faulty settings at the Princess Palace have caused Ana to snap? Did she encounter someone on the monorail connecting Magic Land with Winter Land? Or maybe the blame lies with a quickly covered-up incident at the Mermaid Lagoon? As the Kingdom Corporation defends Ana’s inability to supersede her programming, Ana herself begins to question all she has known. Is everything in the Kingdom really as ideal as it seems? Is she able to doubt, deceive or love? The Kingdom invites readers to ponder how far technology can—or should—go in the quest to create a perfect world.

High school can be a theme park all its own, as Arvin Ahmadi’s Girl Gone Viral attests. Students at the exclusive Palo Alto Academy of Science and Technology (PAAST) build virtual reality worlds, interact with wall-size screens in their dorm rooms and grumble about using old-fashioned iPhones in their history of social media class. Opal Hopper isn’t distracted by holos, Zapps or even her college applications. She and her friends are focused on entering the Make-A-Splash virtual content creation contest. The winning team will be showered with rewards, but the prize Opal cares about most is a meeting with Silicon Valley superstar Howie Mendelsohn, who may hold the key to understanding why Opal’s father mysteriously disappeared seven years ago.

The team—Opal, Moyo, Shane and Kara—hopes that their show “Behind the Scenes” will reach top popularity in a virtual universe where success is measured in LiveTags, comment volume and number of avatars in attendance at each broadcast. Viewership of “Behind the Scenes” skyrockets, but their success has its downsides: Opal’s values are questioned at every turn, including her decision to make her budding romance with Moyo part of her public persona. Meanwhile, a presidential election pits a progressive candidate against one from the anti-technology Luddite party. College acceptances come in, friends and couples at PAAST bicker and fight and make up again, and the truth that Opal seeks lurks constantly in the background, waiting to emerge. Pick up Girl Gone Viral for a boarding school mystery with a technological twist.

Review By

Get the Books

The Kingdom

The Kingdom

By Jess Rothenberg
Holt
ISBN 9781250293855
Girl Gone Viral

Girl Gone Viral

By Arvin Ahmadi
Viking
ISBN 9780425289907

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Recent Features

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!