By Jessica Barksdale Inclan
Prime takes us to a world covered in water. A future place where the ice caps are melting and the human race has been forced onto the high ground that’s left, or living in squalor in water-filled areas. It’s not such a stretch, if you believe in climate change. This YA novel is profound in the ways it shows our world divided – the Prime who live in these dry and bountiful areas, and the Norms who are forced to populate waterways and docks to survive.
Tia and Faith are teenagers who have been blessed to move to the Properties, areas owned by Primes where they house Norms. These Norms have been allowed to move there because they win a “lottery” – maybe because they have something to offer the Primes. The girls go to school with the Prime kids, but are treated as lesser-than. This isn’t a new world where people are divided by race, but more by social stature. Also, as believed by the girls, genetics. The Primes have evolved to be able to spend lengthy time under water, swimming like dolphins. The Norms never learn to swim or survive in the water.
Tia and Faith’s father Tom believes that the world is about to experience another water event, as what is left of the ice caps melts into the sea. He secretly is teaching the girls to swim and survive under water. He delivers cautionary tales to the girls all the time about the future. Tom is a “Sci”, a scientist trying to develop a new food source for when the world is further covered in water.
This isn’t just about dystopia and the future ahead, it also is about being a teenager is a world where you don’t feel you “fit.” Tia and Faith are trying to assimilate into their new Prime world, but the Primes make it pretty tough to fit in. So the Norms hang together and the Primes hang together. Nothing new there, cliques abound in every teenage world. Still, it’s a different take on this teenage subject.
Inclan captures this teenage world well. Also the possibilities of life post-ice age. I enjoyed this tremendously. As in any dystopian novel, there is a learning curve to figure out the setting, but it was a very enjoyable trip to this water world in the US.