When We Vanished

Rootcity. (Call of the Crow Quartet: Bk. 1). Jun. 2020. 332p. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781952149016.
Gr 9 Up–Peterson debuts with an eco-thriller, the first of a quartet focused on raising awareness about the dangers of processed and genetically modified foods. Andi Lin and her mother are doing everything they can to keep anyone from finding out that her father’s new job is as a participant in a clinical food trial at Nutrexo. When Andi hears executives whispering about a dangerous research study, she worries it might be the same one her father is involved in, especially since she hasn’t heard from him in over a week. After she asks her neighbor Cyrus Mirzapour to help, they wind up in over their heads: a nonviolent protest ends in a bombing and they are held captive alongside Cyrus’s older brother Naveed and younger sister Roya. Trapped and desperate to discover the truth, Andi and Cyrus find themselves at the center of a conspiracy with consequences that are hard to imagine—and closer to home than either of them realize. In sharing these timely, important messages, Peterson highlights graphic scenes of animal cruelty and human torture when Naveed is sprayed with a noxious pesticide as part of the villain’s continued experiments. While these scenes viscerally showcase the dangers of modifying foods, particularly the increased spread of antibiotic-resistant infections, the violence may outlast the message, no matter how worthy.
VERDICT An unflinching and absorbing thriller suitable for readers comfortable with gore and grit.

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