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Paging Jaime Sommers, or: Girls-who-don’t-know-they’re-part-robotic are the new zombies

Vampires have had their day in the sun. Zombies are resting in peace. The new it-girls in supernatural romance seems to be bionic women. [Possible spoilers appear below; and, okay, to be fair, they’re not all robots, but I do sense a trend. And just for fun, Freaks & Geeks fans, click here.]

CinderCinder (Feiwel, 2012) — Marissa Meyer’s Cinderella-meets-sci-fi adventure — helped kick things off. “With no memory of her life before becoming a cyborg, teenage Linh Cinder (who lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters) is forced to earn the family’s living as a mechanic,” begins Cindy Ritter’s Fall 2012 Horn Book Guide review (excerpted from her January/February 2012 Horn Book Magazine review). Clearly this young lady ain’t Walt Disney’s cinder-sweeper, and the Lunar Chronicles series started off with a bang, earning Meyer a spot on the New York Times Bestseller List and giving robot grrrls everywhere a fresh new voice.

Rachel Cohn, coauthor (with David Levithan) of such emo-teen hits as Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Knopf, 2006), Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List (Knopf, 2007), and Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares (Knopf, 2010) forges into sci-fi territory with her new book Beta (Hyperion, 2012; check out the book trailer here). The main character, Elysia, a teenage clone for sale at the mall, starts living the high life after being purchased by the governor’s wife. As the story goes on, Elysia begins to question everything she thinks she knows — or has been programmed to believe.

Unremembered by Jessica Brody (Farrar, 2013) begins with the main character floating alone in the ocean, apparently the only survivor of a plane crash. She has no memory of who she is or what just happened [NB: girls with amnesia are another YA trend]. Back on land, she becomes a celebrity; a foster family takes her in, and a mysterious boy, who claims he knows her, starts appearing everywhere. Without going any further with spoilers, take a look again at the title of this post. Also? Are there ever any biotech/pharmaceutical companies in YA fiction that aren’t evil? (Same goes for real-estate developers.) Check out the U.S. and U.K. galley covers on the author’s website.

No spoilers here: from the back cover of the galley of Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza (Harper/Tegan, 2013): “Mila was never meant to learn the truth about her identity. She was supposed to forget her past — that she was built in a secret computer lab and programmed to do things real people would never do. Now she has no choice but to run. The only thing she can’t escape is who she is and what she’s becoming.” ‘Nuff said.

The protagonist of Eve & Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate suffers a horrible car accident. Thanks to her (*ahem* evil) pharmaceutical-company-exec mom’s shady products, Evening (called Eve) is miraculously healed. Still under observation, Eve is bored; she passes the time by working on Mom’s project to “design the perfect boy,” manipulating DNA in order to create flawless eighteen-year-old male specimen Adam. A loner boy aptly named Solo, nonperfect and human, forms the third arm of the story’s sci-fi love triangle.

YA authors: Kelly LeBrock called; she wants a royalty. And what’s next: sentient mannequins?



Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.



  1. This. Also, to piggyback on the “girls w/amnesia is another YA trend” notion, it seems that YA female protagonists of late often suffer from a severe case of “lack of agency.” It’s Katniss at her most unreliable, most sedated, hiding in a closet— FOR AN ENTIRE 300 PAGE NOVEL (or trilogy). Griffin’s Mask of the Red Death and Stampler’s Where it Began jump immediately to mind. Even to some degree–dare I say it?– Bitterblue. Why is this a thing? Is it reflecting greater societal feelings of helplessness? Ennui? is this Madeline Levine’s “Price of Privilege”?

    it’s not the girls that wake up with amnesia that make me raise an eyebrow– it’s the ones that don’t seem concerned about figuring out the how, the why, and the what now. Back in 1999, Tim Wadham averred “plot does matter.” I would like to second that with an addendum: Agency does too.

  2. This article would have been better titled “Cyborg girls are the new zombies.” The protagonist in CINDER is very aware that she’s part robot. In fact, it’s one of her main struggles in the book. A nice try, but this article could have used a little more research.

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