cover image Willful Machines

Willful Machines

Tim Floreen. Simon Pulse, $17.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-4814-3277-1

Floreen’s thoughtful debut calls into question the definition of humanity and the nature of love. In a near-future America, artificial intelligences have been developed and promptly outlawed, with a rogue entity named Charlotte launching terrorist attacks, ostensibly to free her imprisoned brethren. Lee Fisher, the son of the president of the United States, worries about being one of Charlotte’s targets, but he’s more afraid that he’ll be outed as gay in an increasingly hostile sociopolitical environment. When he falls for Nico, who has just transferred to his prep school, Lee has to overcome years of repression and fear, gaining confidence he will need as Charlotte’s plans escalate. Floreen’s story combines elements of romance and action, set against a believable futuristic backdrop, and he wisely keeps the core cast insular for better character development. Genuine twists should catch readers off-guard, but the ultimate set of revelations requires some significant leaps of logic. Nevertheless, the developing chemistry between Nico and Lee is satisfying, and the story raises intriguing ideas about free will, morality, and growing up. Ages 14–up. Agent: Quinlan Lee, Adams Literary. (Oct.)