**5++ Goodreads Stars**
I just finished Scott Reintgren’s Nyxia this afternoon on the bus ride home from work, and it was so good that I almost missed my stop! Nyxia is set in the not too distant future where a corporation, Babel, has colonized a planet named Eden. To extract resources off of Eden, Babel will need a group of mentally and physically strong teens capable of surviving on an entirely new planet. Babel has recruited 10 teens from planet Earth to compete for a spot to Eden. Babel has specifically sought out teens who have very little left to lose on planet Earth, and have created a series of unique challenges to determine the teens’ fitness to survive Eden.
The lead of the story is Emmett, an African American teen from Detroit, Michigan (in the U.S.). He’s joined Babel’s crew as a competitor because his mother has cancer, and his dad has spent most of his life toiling to make ends meet. Emmett wants his mother’s cancer cured and wants his father to have an easier life. Joining Babel means not only freedom for his family, but freedom from a generational legacy of poverty and enslavement. As Emmett describes, “In every branch of our family tree, someone’s brushed shoulders with real freedom. But there’s always a catch in life. There’s always been some fine print that snatched dreams just before they were real enough to hold in our hands.” Emmett is a fierce competitor; however, through his experiences with Babel he learns that what makes him unique is not his mental or physical strength but rather his ability to be a good person and friend when placed in the worst of circumstances.
There is so much to love about this book. The author is a master at depicting and detailing scenes so that they play in the reader’s head like a movie. There is a lot of action in the book, which is often hard to write and therefore envision as a reader. The author has no trouble communicating and etching out every single environment no matter how unusual, action-filled, and outer-worldly.
As a parent, I appreciated how the author emphasized the intimate, close friendships that young teens and adults forge. The author avoids tiresome relationship tropes often found in young adult fiction, such as unrequited love or jealously and competition. While the lead character was intent on winning his ticket to Eden, he cared about many of his competitors even when they were cruel to him. Emmett has a solid moral compass, one that we all hope our children emulate even in the worst of circumstances. He develops deep, caring relationships with both girls and boys his age, demonstrating that friendship is what makes us human. When Emmett feels tempted to compromise his values to gain a spot to Eden, his close, tender friendship with Bilal grounds him: “A branch can be cut away, but roots run deep and dark. What I wanted didn’t matter. When someone treats you like a friend, that’s what you become. His words have made a brother out of me. My words have carved him into the same.”
The recent proliferation of dystopian young adult books (e.g. The Hunger Games trilogy; the Divergent trilogy; and The Maze Runner series) may make some hesitant to read yet another YA dystopian book, but Nyxia’s rich plot, writing, world, and characters will not disappoint. I can’t wait for the second book in this series!
Thank you to the author, Scott Reintgren, and Random House Children’s for an advanced reader copy of Nyxia.