The Last Beekeeper

HarperCollins. Jul. 2022. 304p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780063006553.
Gr 4-6–Cartaya’s newest novel gives readers a dynamic, plot-driven story with heart. Set in the future after climate disasters and constant virtual connectivity have altered the way of life, the plot centers Yoly Cicerón, who wants to go to school to become a surgeon—not a farmer in the Valley like her exiled parents. After accepting a scholarship from the powerful Silo without reading the fine print, Yoly soon realizes that all of the connectivity is just another way for a few affluent people to control impoverished families like hers and keep them in debt. After discovering their abuela’s writings about the fabled bees and their importance in pollination, Yoly and her older sister Cami go on a mission to revitalize their family farm, clear their debts, and save the Valley from the Silo. Readers will find Yoly authentic and endearing even when she makes rash decisions. The depiction of Latinx culture intertwined with the culture of the Valley and the Silo bring necessary texture to the plot. The relationships Yoly builds and her realizations about the beauty of connecting with people in-person happens naturally. While some of the motivation of the villains falls a little flat at the end, the purpose of the hero remains, and ultimately sparks conversation about our own climate crisis. An action-packed adventure that reflects our own mistakes and predicts our fears for the future. Similar titles include Jeanne DuPrau’s The City of Ember and Rodman Philbrick’s The Last Book in the Universe.
VERDICT Highly recommended for middle school readers who enjoy dystopian adventures and science.

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