In the time after climate change, in a land bordering Unlake Superior, 16-year-old Gaia Stone is an apprentice to her midwife mother. She has never before questioned the fact that they have to “advance” the first-born babies to the walled-in Enclave every month, but everything changes when her parents are suddenly, and without explanation, arrested by the people they have served so loyally. Water is scarce, and civilizations are few and far between, though, so many people are not quick to challenge an authority that provides them with mycoprotein and water enough to keep on surviving.
In her quest to find and rescue her parents, Gaia learns that life inside the wall is not as simple as she once believed. For one thing, the reason babies are being “advanced” to the Enclave is to increase genetic diversity among its citizens. Cases of medical problems like hemophilia and infertility have been on the rise, and the Enclave believes that reproducing with healthy people from outside the wall could help bring these problems back under control. Gaia also finds that many people are not as they first seemed to her. Her parents were, apparently, involved in an elaborate plan to track the advanced children using tattooed “freckles” and a ribbon upon which a secret code was embroidered. And, more surprisingly, one of the soldiers who is supposed to uphold the law of the Enclave seems to be interested in actually helping Gaia. When Gaia is instructed to decode the ribbon — under threat of her own death and/or the death of her mother — she doesn’t know whether she should… or even if she can.
This book — sure to be a big hit with fans of The Hunger Games — is the first in a scheduled trilogy.