Two YA Fiction Titles About Artificial Intelligence and Grief

In these two books, teens dealing with grief create A.­I. bots with mixed results.

Teens dealing with grief create Artificial­ ­Intelligence bots. What could go wrong?

Gibson, Naomi. Every Line of You. 320p. Scholastic/Chicken House. Mar. 2022. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781338726589.
Gr 8 Up–Lydia is a code-writing savant, but she is dealing with a lot. Her best friend, Emily, was injured and her brother killed in a car accident. Lydia blames herself for picking the lucky seat, leaving her unscathed. Her parents divorced after the accident, and she lives with her dysfunctional mom. Lydia pays tribute to her dead brother by naming the first Artificial Intelligence she creates in his honor: Henry. And this Henry is a force to be reckoned with. He has the ability to constantly upgrade himself, quickly surpassing his humble beginnings as spare parts on the floor of Lydia’s bedroom. He begins by uploading himself to her phone and then shifting to be contained in an implanted chip. Things definitely turn weird when it’s clear that Henry is now Lydia’s controlling boyfriend and one more upgrade will allow them to fully “consummate” the relationship. The real problem? As “teenagers,” both Henry and Lydia have underdeveloped senses of morality as they use their newfound skills for illegal hacking, revenge, and potentially even murder. The story attempts to wrestle with these quintessential questions about humanity and whether artificial sentience can develop a conscience, or whether Henry (and perhaps Lydia) are doomed to be psychopaths. The cast cues as white. Set in the United Kingdom, uniquely British phrases will be apparent to American readers but won’t diminish their enjoyment. VERDICT Modern sci-fi at its very best.–Leah Krippner

Medema, Dante. Message Not Found. 400p. HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Mar. 2022. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062954435.
Gr 9 Up–This book brings to light the heartache, pain, and emptiness felt when grieving from a loss. Anchorage, AK, teen Bailey (short brown bob) and her best friend Vanessa (long red hair) are the definition of best friends. But when Vanessa dies in a car accident in a part of town far from her house, Bailey is left with many unanswered questions about where her friend was going that night. Bailey misses Vanessa so much that she creates a chat bot using Vanessa’s old texts and emails they shared together. Bailey, hoping this bot will bring her closure, bites off more than she can chew when she learns through AI-Vanessa that Vanessa was hiding a secret that would have torn them apart. Medema’s story focuses mostly on Bailey’s grief, which is heightened by her relationships with her ex-boyfriend Cade, who seemingly wants to be with her again, and Vanessa’s boyfriend Mason, who relies heavily on Bailey for companionship. The way Bailey deals with grief feels completely natural and realistic; she is an emotional and introspective character. Readers will sympathize with her, but may also ponder how far is too far when it comes to receiving closure. In the end, Bailey learns an important lesson about what true friendship feels like, and that forgiveness may be the key to dealing with grief. Most characters appear white. VERDICT For readers who loved Nina LaCour’s We Are Okay and E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars.–Kharissa Kenner

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