Title: Code Blue
Author: Marissa Slaven
Publication date: April 22, 2018
Ordering: This title is now out of print and is being transferred to Stormbird Press.
Links: Climate Hope 365 TV Network, Interview with Eco-fiction.com, Hamilton News
Code Blue is a YA speculative thriller mystery set in a not-so-distant future where rising temperatures and sea levels have dramatically reshaped the world in which we live. Author Marissa Slaven keeps you hanging page after page as the story unfolds. Young adults and teenagers who worry about our planet will get something from this novel and at the same time relate to it on a personal level as they worry about their immediate futures: can I get into the college I want–and their planet’s present and future: how will global warming change our home, our lives?
The novel opens with sixteen-year-old Atlantic “Tic” Brewer about to take the North Eastern Science Academy entrance exam, the gateway to attending the world-renown school known for fostering the leading scientists fighting climate change. It’s just Tic and her mom at home—before she was born, her dad was tragically killed in a boating accident while he was on a research trip in the North Atlantic. He was a hydrologist, and Tic wants nothing more than to continue her father’s research and help stave off the impending crisis of rising sea levels. That’s where the NESA comes in.
When Tic’s acceptance letter arrives, she’s thrilled and a little anxious. But before she can get settled at the prestigious boarding school, she finds a mysterious note that says “just in case” and a strange sequence of numbers on the back of a photograph her mom sent with her, the last snapshot taken of her dad and mom together before his trip. Did he know something was going to happen to him? Tic enlists the help of her new friends to track down any clues about her father’s research, and while working on her own hydrology project, Tic discovers some startling facts of her own. Life on Earth might be much more precarious than anyone has let on.
The author donated partial proceeds of the sales of this book to Ecojustice.
Rising oceans, a vastly changed environment, and people who struggle to survive in this new world are not unusual; but what is notably different in Code Blue is a survival account of this changed world as seen through the eyes of a teen who lives behind a barbed-wire fence that stretches some 28,000 miles, designed to either protect or barricade those within (she’s not quite sure which applies).
Marissa Slaven’s striking observational style captures Tic’s world and deftly contrasts it with our own: “Looking at it from here, if you didn’t know any better, it looks like hundreds of seagulls are standing on the water, walking around on it and building nests, but really they are on the roof of a submerged building. It’s a big roof, almost one million square feet. It’s the roof of what was once the largest shopping mall in New England. I know from watching old videos that it would have been a place where teenagers like me would have met, shopped, eaten, gossiped, hooked up, broken up…in other words spent a lot of time.”
The visual images of what exists now, compared to their original appearance and purposes, are simply stunning, and are part of what captures reader attention and makes this future world seem so familiar and so alien, all at once.
Another important note is that the economic impact of the Change is also covered–and in intimate terms that reveals lifestyle impact; not the usual dispassionate survey of appearances. Perhaps this is because of Marissa Slaven’s use of the first person, which imparts a “you are here” tone to her coverage and thoroughly immerses readers in Tic’s much-changed world and its routines.
Dystopian fiction comes and goes, and too many assume the trappings of formula productions; but the test of any superior story line lies in its ability to draw readers with powerful characterization and associations that lend to a reader’s emotional connections with events as they unfold. Code Blue holds a special ability to juxtapose both the bigger ecological picture with the microcosm of a young adult’s personal challenges as she moves through this world.
Add the mystery of Tic’s father’s research, her determination to assume his task of tackling global climate change by continuing his work as they strive to stave off the effects of rising waters, and new clues about his project that hold frightening impacts for her own studies and ideals and you have a young adult story that should reach well into adult dystopian fiction reader circles as it leads to a critical moment in a complex situation: a tipping point that will change her family, her dreams, and her teetering world.
Code Blue is very, very highly recommended as a blend of sci-fi, eco-thriller, and coming of age story that’s hard to put down, filled with satisfying twists, turns, and even unexpected intrigue.
-Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer
The momentum of the plot pulls the reader along inexorably and the author, a palliative (hospice) care doctor and mother, as well as a talented writer, does not pull punches in this deeply imagined and well-crafted novel. Read more here.