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Lizard Radio - Starred Review

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In a dystopian future, Kivali Kerwin, nicknamed Lizard, is sent to prepare for adulthood at a government-run CropCamp.

Lizard's adoptive family has always resisted authority, but attending camp as a teen makes it easier to avoid being sent to the prisonlike Blight as an adult. As a midrange bender—roughly equivalent, in today's terms, to having a nonbinary gender—Lizard is at risk of being sent to Blight. At camp, Lizard unexpectedly forms deep connections to other campers. At the same time, Lizard increasingly suspects something sinister behind the camp's strong community spirit and the seemingly kind mentorship of director Ms. Mischetti. The world here is revealed gradually. The poetic, evocative prose is littered with unfamiliar neologisms—“skizzer,” “Mealio,” “vape”—with the expectation that readers will either pick up their meanings from context or be willing to wonder. Some words prove more useful than contemporary vocabulary: when Lizard develops a crush on a female camper, the word “jazz”—denoting everything from flirtation to sexual acts—provides a simple but startlingly effective way to talk about sexuality and attraction. Mischetti’s warm leadership and disarming tendency to acknowledge disturbing rumors make her a dangerous enemy and mean Lizard's mission is more complicated than simply uncovering the truth.

Sophisticated, character-driven science fiction, as notable for its genderqueer protagonist as for its intricate, suspenseful plot. (Science fiction. 14-18)
This review was published in Kirkus Reviews’ June 15, 2015 issue.

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Lizard Radio - Starred Review

Gr 8 Up—All great heroes begin with mythical origins. Fifteen-year-old Kavali is no exception. When she was a baby, she was abandoned on a sidewalk, swaddled in a T-shirt with a lizard printed on the front. Since then, she has questioned her true identity. Is she a boy or a girl? A lizard or a human? This work is set in the not-too-distant future, in which the government closely monitors gender, occupation, and emotion. When Kavali is thrown into CropCamp, a camp where teenagers learn how to grow organic crops as initiation into adulthood, she begins to question whether she should forfeit her individuality to become a cooperative part of society. Ultimately, Kavali rises above the challenges, discovers her true origins, and makes her own destiny. The themes in Schmatz’s novel surpass in complexity many of its contenders in YA dystopian fiction. The author’s storytelling unravels question upon question for readers, not only about Kavali but also about the power of free will. VERDICT An entertaining and thought-provoking read, this title will be a big hit for those who want a little something more from their dystopian fiction.—Jaclyn Anderson, Madison County Library System, MS

This review was published in School Library Journal’s July 2015 issue.

Read more: Books that influenced the writing of Lizard Radio