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Tankborn by Karen Sandler

Best friends Kayla and Mishalla were born GENs, or Genetically Engineered Non-humans, making them the lowest class in their society’s strict caste system. Because they don’t have entirely human DNA, they are viewed as essentially good for nothing except the jobs to which they are Assigned at age 15. Neither girl is ready to come of age and leave all they know behind, but they have no choice. They’ve both resigned themselves to dull if productive Assignments, but they’re both about to find themselves in the midst of a larger conspiracy. Kayla is Assigned to care for Zul Manel, the patriarch of an important trueborn family who holds the key to many of their society’s greatest secrets, including the true origin of GENs. Farther away, Mishalla struggles to work as a nurturer, while some of her children are being taken away in the middle of the night. Both girls are caught up in a plot much larger than themselves, one that will test their faith, their strength, and all that they know—one with the potential to tear their society apart from the inside out.

Tankborn is a thrilling dystopian novel that is sure to thoroughly entertain readers as well as challenge the way they think. From the very first page, Sandler thrusts readers into a world wracked with a myriad of underlying social problems, the very least of which is a caste system. Sandler’s fantastic worldbuilding makes Kayla and Mishalla’s world feel so realistic, despite technological peculiarities that separate their world from ours. This makes for a complex and fascinating backdrop for what proves to be an increasingly gripping story that is full of dark secrets, plot twists, and, of course, forbidden romance. What makes the story in Tankborn even better, though, is its ability to provoke questions about the ethics of everything from genetic engineering to rigidly enforced social classes to the various uses of technological advances. Without a doubt, Tankborn is an exciting story that is sure to stay on readers’ minds for a long time.

Tankborn appeals to readers who also enjoyed Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien and Dark Parties by Sara Grant.

Rating: 4.5

Review copy from Lee & Low Books

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