This was one of those audiobooks where I didn’t really feel like I completely “got it” but I kept on listening anyway. It won a 2014 Printz Honor, so I figured it must have literary merit even if I wasn’t feeling it, right? Either way, I now have the ability to “booktalk” it to any library patrons who might ask what it’s about, and that is always key.
Standish Treadwell lives in an alternate reality in which “the Motherland” [England?] is in a race to the moon and operates much like WWII Germany — with ghettos of people segregated from the rest of the population and forced to work in labor camps for mere scraps of food. (Especially since I had just listened to Rose Under Fire, the constant deprivation and brutality definitely reminded me of the Holocaust.) He lives in Zone 7 (one of the poorest areas) with only his grandfather, since his parents ran away in an attempt to escape the totalitarian regime. Standish attends an all-boys school in which teachers openly favor kids from well-to-do families and those who come from families of government informants. It’s not uncommon for kids to pick on or beat up on one another, and teachers often discipline via corporal punishments like caning. Though he seems to be concerned that he has a learning disability of some sort [dyslexia?], Standish is quite clever and determined to figure out a plan to stand up to his government for the good of all mankind.