by Scott Westerfeld
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novella
In this future-set novella by bestselling author Scott Westerfeld, Kieran Black lives in a "perfect" world. Disease and starvation have been eradicated, sleep is unnecessary, and it takes no time at all to go from the Bahamas to the moon. But now Kieran has to take Scarcity, a class about how people lived in the bad old days. And as if sitting through an hour of Scarcity every day wasn't depressing enough, it's final projects time. Each student must choose some form of ancient hardship to experience for two whole weeks. Kieran chooses having to sleep eight hours a night, which doesn't seem too annoying.
Maria Borsotti has never thought much of Kieran, but she decides to take pity on him and help him out with his project. Soon, Kieran is sleeping and having vivid dreams, while Maria, whose Scarcity project is to give up all teenage hormone regulation, is experiencing emotions she never knew she had. As their assignments draw them closer together, they begin to wonder if the olden days weren't so bad. Maybe something has been missing from their perfect lives after all?
(synopsis from Goodreads)
This is an interesting novella about two teenagers in a seemingly utopian society. Both have to come up with projects for their Scarcity class, which is where they learn about all the horrible things that beset their ancestors in the olden days. For their final projects, Kieran chooses to experience sleep and Maria chooses to experience unregulated teenage hormones.
I thought the characters were developed pretty well, even though the story was so short. The nine chapters alternate between Kieran's and Maria's points of view, so we get to spend some time in the head of each. The supporting characters like Kieran and Maria's classmates were interesting, too, and I wouldn't have minded reading more about their Scarcity projects. Actually, I wouldn't have minded reading more about this future world in general.
This could have been made into a longer novel, but I think the novella length worked just fine here, and got the point across. Stupid perfect world, as Maria repeatedly said. Can a world be so utopian that it actually turns into a sort of dystopia? I think that's the idea the author was trying to explore here... and with only 55 pages to work with, I think he did a pretty good job.
Overall: 4.29 out of 5