Published by Candlewick Press on September 8, 2015
Genres: Dystopian, LGBT, Young Adult
Source: I purchased a copy of this book.
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Fifteen-year-old Kivali has never fit in. As a girl in boys’ clothes, she is accepted by neither tribe, bullied by both. What are you? they ask. Abandoned as a baby wrapped in a T-shirt with an image of a lizard on the front, Kivali found a home with nonconformist artist Sheila. Is it true what Sheila says, that Kivali was left by a mysterious race of saurians and that she’ll one day save the world? Kivali doesn’t think so. But if it is true, why has Sheila sent her off to CropCamp, with its schedules and regs and what feels like indoctrination into a gov-controlled society Kivali isn’t sure has good intentions?
But life at CropCamp isn’t all bad. Kivali loves being outdoors and working in the fields. And for the first time, she has real friends: sweet, innocent Rasta; loyal Emmett; fierce, quiet Nona. And then there’s Sully. The feelings that explode inside Kivali whenever Sully is near—whenever they touch—are unlike anything she’s experienced, exhilarating and terrifying. But does Sully feel the same way?
Between mysterious disappearances, tough questions from camp director Ms. Mischetti, and weekly doses of kickshaw—the strange, druglike morsel that Kivali fears but has come to crave—things get more and more complicated. But Kivali has an escape: her unique ability to channel and explore the power of her animal self. She has Lizard Radio.
Will it be enough to save her?
Lizard Radio is a dystopian YA novel (with a dash of metaphysics) that had me second-guessing myself pretty much to the end. I loved the open-ended way it explored themes of gender identity, community, and politics. Schmatz includes social commentary delivered in a light hand, with plenty of room to think more deeply.
This world accepts the reality of a gender spectrum, but ultimately it still thinks in very binary terms. (Hey! Just like in our world!) So transition is heavily “encouraged” (cough cough) by the government. Kivali is genderfluid, so rather than a stereotypical transition story, this is more about being true to yourself, accepting yourself, and realizing that we all have something to contribute to our community.
This brings up something so important, even among those who consider themselves progressive/liberal: How do we treat trans people who choose not to transition? Or those who don’t present female/male “enough,” who don’t present the way we think they “should”? These are deep, intricate themes that are naturally present in Lizard Radio (no preaching from the author needed) because you can’t accept the gender spectrum without these questions coming forth, demanding to be addressed.
Many times in dystopian novels the bad guy is pretty clear. Here? Not so much. I didn’t know what to think about one character in particular, almost to the very end. It was disturbing and absolutely delightful! The ending had a The Giver kind of feel, which is fine, but I wanted more. I want a sequel that explores an area outside the camp.
Lizard Radio was a great read, and I am so happy Schmatz has a backlist for me to devour!