Inmate Eleven has never seen the sun. She is a Blue living in post-pandemic 2111. She is held alongside her wolf-dog, Ira, in a small room within the tall walls of Elite, the capital of Bible Boot—a future, isolationist portion of the United States post-Second Civil War. Inmate Eleven is given tests and bloodwork with frequency. She has been told through a series of Bible Boot-issued flashcards that Blues are racially inferior, hate is illegal, and Clones are irrefutably kind. Larkin, a white Clone, begins to meet with Inmate Eleven, and Inmate Eleven feels empowered to choose a new name for herself: Imogen. Unfortunately, Larkin’s father also happens to be the powerful, racist leader of Elite. Soon, Larkin and Imogen realize they must escape the walls of Elite where slavery has been fully re-instituted, and both Black and Blue people are enduring torturous treatment. But…who is Imogen, really, and what year is it…truly? Imogen is living two disjointed realities, and she’s fighting to go wolf in both.
THOUGHTS: Many aspects of this book are heartbreaking. The way McBride weaves this story together is poignant and unique. Without giving too many spoilers, this is a book that brings to light concepts of generational and racial trauma in the United States. The book’s underlying commentary regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, racial violence, and political polarization will also be highly relatable to middle school students. Big twists and turns, compounded by sad events, caused myself as reader to question where the story was going at first, but not in a negative way. Then, pieces clicked masterfully into place. Because the story is told from a first person limited perspective, McBride uses ends of each chapter to offer clarifying bits of information that will help all readers access the underlying themes and nuance of the story. The powerful messaging of Black resilience and a new lens of trauma will stick with readers for a long time. As an adult reader, I found myself thinking of Octavia Butler and Toni Morrison’s stories. An essential addition to middle school and even high school fiction collections.