The Merciless King of Moore High

North Star Editions/Flux. Apr. 2024. 368p. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781635830965.
Gr 9 Up–Thanks to a virus, the adults of Brockton, CT, have become physically banded together (in a gruesomely literal way), leaving high school students such as Kay Kim to decide how to protect themselves and create some sort of social order. Kay’s position on the student council at Jefferson puts her in a place of power, until she uncovers a lie and finds herself unceremoniously exiled from the school. An unexpected rescue lands her at crosstown rival Moore High, now run by the chaotic and demanding King Max in a social hierarchy styled after a beloved video game. The “dragons” created by the mutilated bodies of the adults are a background danger compared to the cutthroat politics and power struggles amongst the living inside Moore High, and as Kay scrambles to stay alive long enough to learn the ropes of her new surroundings, decisions about who to trust take on life-or-death implications. Meanwhile, back at Jefferson, Kay’s friend Nirali has realized that Kay’s disappearance is suspect and certainly not the suicide leadership is claiming, and so begins her own campaign to find out what’s going on. In this post-apocalyptic high school rivalry full of revolting human monsters, Sparks does a fantastic job showcasing the internalized and sometimes violently decided questions teens have about trust, loyalty, and friendship. Lacking deeper characterizations and without enough back story, the plot keeps readers scrambling to catch up and there are quite a few unanswered questions.
VERDICT A fun but dense read; for fans of gruesome monsters and political drama.

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