cover image Flash Point

Flash Point

Nancy Kress. Viking, $17.99 (512p) ISBN 978-0-670-01247-3

It’s Fear Factor meets The Running Man by way of the 99% in this tense drama, Hugo and Nebula–winning SF author Kress’s first book for teens, set in a near-future America after “The Collapse” brought widespread disease and poverty. Sixteen-year-old Amy Kent, desperate to provide for her family, signs up to star in a new reality show, Who Knows People, Baby—You?, in which contestants are exposed to stressful situations in their daily lives while viewers vote on the possible outcomes. As the scenarios become weirder and more dangerous, Amy and her fellow contestants find it increasingly difficult to tell what’s real and what’s staged, who’s legitimate and who’s a studio plant. Soon, they’re risking their lives—all the while tempted by popularity, success, and ever-higher bonuses—but economic riots and desperation threaten to push everyone to the breaking point. Sadly, the concept of this exploitative reality show is entirely believable, as is the financially ruinous setting. Strong characterization rounds out this unsettling thriller, although the resolution lacks oomph given all the buildup. Ages 12–up. (Nov.)