Booklist Reviews

In the year 2170, Leanna attends a school in Missouri that allows her to experience different time periods in history by virtually being there. Little does she know that she will soon be caught in a terrifying adventure, not unlike the slaves' escape from barking hounds en route to Canada through the Underground Railroad that she just experienced in class. When Leanna's mother is arrested for treason against the government, Leanna learns she is not a "First," an original biological being. She is a clone in a society that enslaves and abuses them and must rely on the assistance of characters both living and historical to survive. The McKissacks' slight story for younger readers packs a great deal of messaging, which will no doubt prove useful in classroom discussions of issues and themes but sometimes comes at the expense of the story. The science-fiction backdrop serves as a framework for issues of identity and societal prejudice but is not predominant in the reading experience. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews

In 2170, America has a new slave class: clones. Thirteen-year-old Leanna begins to question this order when her mother is arrested as part of a "terrorist" organization promoting clone rights. Obvious historical parallels are heavy-handed and sometimes supersede the logic of the authors' future world, but the action-filled plot and sympathetic characters make this parable readily accessible. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews

It is the year 2170, and Leanna, daughter of a respected child psychologist, is a typical 13-year-old interested in friends and sports. She is enrolled in All-Virtual School, where she experiences such historical events as an escape with Harriet Tubman. This becomes real when her mother is arrested for activism on behalf of the clones who serve as slave labor for humans. Leanna follows her mother's order to flee the clutches of her mother's jailers. While on the run, a message reveals that her mother's interest in clones was more than academic: Leanna is herself a clone and in danger should that fact be discovered. With the help of others sympathetic to their cause, Leanna avoids detection while dealing with facts about her identity that send her reeling. Some of the parallels to American slavery and racism are obvious; others are clever, such as the depiction of a secondary character, Houston, a closeted cyborg (another oppressed minority) who happens to be three-fifths human. This is fast-paced adventure with a provocative exploration of civil rights and identity. (Science fiction. 12 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Media Connection

This story, which takes place in 2170, demonstrates the power of well-written science fiction. Thirteen-year old Leanna, who has been studying slavery in the U.S., finds her life parallels that of slaves in pre-Civil War times. She has grown up believing that she's human, but when her mother is taken by the world authority's police for supporting the Liberty Bell Movement, Leanna discovers she is really a clone. Clones are treated like slaves and Leanna finds herself in a fight not only for her own life but for the freedom of cyborgs and clones. With guidance from historical figures like Ben Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, she finds that the U.S. Constitution's 13th amendment is not really enforced. In this first book of a trilogy, the background is set for Leanna's fight against modern slavery. The McKissacks' knowledge of history is evident, and the book ends with a "History of the Future" in which the authors explain what is real and what is not. This book would be perfect to shar when studying the Constitution. The story provides much to think about when looking at personal rights and slavery today. The unresolved ending will leave readers wanting to know what happens. Highly Recommended. Nelda Brangwin, Teacher Librarian, Cherry Valley Elementary School, Duvall, Washington ¬ 2010 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Thirteen-year-old Leanna has run from slave catchers with Harriet Tubman thanks to a virtual reality history class. Yet like many people in the year 2170, she believes clones aren't human, and thus keeping them as slaves doesn't bother her. But Leanna's world is shaken when her mother and a close family friend are arrested as suspected traitors for wanting to give clones civil rights. And when a discovery turns her world upside down and she makes a friend who belongs to a group she believed to be nearly as bad as clones, Leanna discovers that saving herself and her mother means joining the fight for clone equality. But even being immersed in the oppressed culture does not lead to Leanna's instant conversion. The McKissacks (Days of Jubilee), working with their son John for the first time, portray a plugged-in 22nd-century America that is recognizably descended both from contemporary prejudices as well as a modern reliance on technology. The story is tight and fast-paced, yet makes room for historical parallels that are vivid without being preachy. An intriguing start to a planned trilogy. Ages 9–12. (Feb.)

[Page 49]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 5–8—A clunky, didactic science-fiction allegory. Leanna, 13, is studying the Underground Railroad. African slavery is ancient history in this America of 2170, but a new group is enslaved: clones. Leanna gives little thought to their status until her mother is suddenly arrested for ties to The Liberty Bell, a secret clone-liberation organization. Shaken, disbelieving, and afraid for her mother's life at the hands of cruel government captors, the teen asks her mother's friend for help. Using biographs—human replicas similar to holograms—Dr. Ayala introduces past and present figures entrusted with The Liberty Bell's work: Benjamin Franklin, Justice John Marshall Harlan, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Leanna's grandfather, Dr. David Montgomery. Leanna learns the importance of their work as well as a dangerous secret about her own identity. Some aspects of the plot are predictable and poorly drawn: few readers will be surprised when the "unnamed girl from 2170" whom Ben Franklin predicts will join the ranks of The Liberty Bell's Custodians is revealed to be the protagonist. Similarly, too many references to the distant past—such as Leanna describing her disheveled mother looking "like old photos of twentieth-century drug addicts"—prevent the futuristic setting from coming to life. Still, the fast pace, short chapters, and slim page count will make this volume attractive to reluctant readers, and the obvious curriculum tie-ins will appeal to teachers.—Megan Honig, New York Public Library

[Page 116]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews

When government officials arrest her mother for being a member of "The Liberty Bell," a subversive group believed to be conspiring with aliens to undermine the foundations of society, Leanna finds herself spirited off into an underground railroad much like the one she has been studying in her virtual high school history class. With the assistance of her "conductors" and the support of virtual representations of historical figures like Benjamin Franklin, Leanna learns important secrets that reveal she is the only one who can force changes to the atrocious treatment of the world's clones and cyborgs who have no status as human beings. Expecting great things from the well-known McKissacks, who write this novel along with their newcomer son John, and anticipating the creative results of an intriguing premise, it is disappointing that this novel falls completely flat. The characters are one-dimensional, and some additions, like the aliens, are just unnecessary. Although the plot is fast paced, it is ultimately disjointed and comes to no real ending. Connections to actual history serve only to make the theme of honoring life feel didactic and strained. The setting also feels forced, and elements such as futuristic teen slang and a game played in an antigravity chamber are just distracting and do not add any ambiance. Even as some genre readers will be attracted to the action and setting and others will pick it up because of recognizable authors, this novel will certainly not attract readers through its poor construction and didacticism.—Rachel Wadham 2Q 2P M J Copyright 2010 Voya Reviews.