In an Orwellian society where the government promotes unity through conformity, 15-year-old Kivali Kerwin is at risk for being sent to Blight, a prison-like ghetto. Kivali is genderfluid, and she’s refused to transition to one gender. Unfortunately her government doesn’t allow that, and Kivali is sent to an agricultural camp to train for her adulthood as a young woman. At first, Kivali really enjoys camp. She’s given the endearing nickname "Lizard" and begins a budding romance with a female camper—although same-sex pairings are strictly forbidden. But camp has its downsides, too: Every movement is monitored; social time is mandatory; and the campers are given drugs to make them compliant. Plus, two kids have already disappeared. Then the camp director, Ms. Mischetti, takes a special interest in Kivali, and Kivali suspects Ms. Mischetti’s intentions are not what they seem. Step out of line and Kivali goes to Blight; conform and she loses herself entirely.
Pat Schmatz, award-winning author of Bluefish, has created a nuanced world with newly coined language, such as mealio (mess hall) and privo (bathroom), in which readers will have to rely heavily on context. Lizard Radio is a timely and empowering story about identity that will resonate not just with genderqueer teens but with all readers who don’t see themselves fitting into binary categories. This novel will enrich the ongoing conversation on gender identity, conformity and human sexuality.
Kimberly Giarratano is the author of Grunge Gods and Graveyards, a young adult paranormal mystery.