The School for Whatnots

Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins/. Mar. 2022. 304p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062838490.
Gr 5 Up–An innovative story of friendship with touches of science fiction, fantasy, and mystery, along with a heavy, dark dose of capitalism. How do the wealthy keep their children protected and stop them from acting spoiled? They send them to a school full of whatnots, android robots pretending to be human. While attending one of these schools, Max becomes best friends with Josie. Years later, he finds out Josie has a secret—she is the only whatnot at the school who is human. Her father made a huge sacrifice in the hopes of providing her with a better life. When Josie is transferred out of the program, the two companions are abruptly separated. Both children are determined to find each other, and in the process uncover dark secrets about the whatnot system and its powerful creators. The thought-provoking plot exposes the glaring disparities between the haves and the have-nots. Unfortunately, the almost-too-neat conclusion does not offer any true solutions. Systemic poverty continues to exist side by side with families wealthy enough to render change, but who choose short-term options over anything lasting.
VERDICT A solid purchase with appeal for older readers; recommended for any library, but especially those where sci-fi and mysteries circulate well.–

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