Inhuman

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Inhuman Book Poster Image
Fantasy creatures enhance near-future page turner.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

Kids will learn a little about the geography around Davenport, Iowa; about artists such as Ferdinand Hodler; and about Chicago as an important cultural center. In a sci-fi context, kids will learn a little about containing virus outbreaks.

Positive messages

The story shows that staying safe and being happy don't always go together: When the stakes are important enough, sometimes you have to take risks.

Positive role models & representations

Heroine Lane, 16, and coadventurers Everson and Rafe model loyalty, sacrifice, and determination. Adults are mostly absent but range from heroic to villainous, although the only scientist working on a vaccine also is addicted to a fictional sedative. Lane makes mistakes along the way but learns from them and always follows her conscience. She has good self-esteem, which enables her to trust herself, to think through problems, and to act when she needs to.

Violence

At first, descriptions of violence are mild and infrequent, but they become more intense at the climax. Much blood, including a few descriptions of dramatic injuries (for example, a hand getting chopped off). One serial-killer character believes that eating a human heart will cure the viral plague, and there are vague descriptions of corpses from his experiments. There's frequent fighting, with punching, some stabbing, and a couple instances of heads being cracked. A few injuries are mildly gory (a torn ear is described as "mangled skin and gristle"). Characters brandish guns several times; there are mentions of gunshots, bullet holes, and wounds. A childlike character is beaten to death.

Sex

Kisses are mentioned half a dozen times or so but not described in detail; one is "ardent" and another "sweetly demanding." One character tries to use his tongue, but Lane stops the kiss abruptly. Several times, Lane notices her feelings of physical attraction and wonders about their significance. 

Language

About a half-dozen uses of "crap"; one mention of pee.

Consumerism

One mention each of Uzi, Dinty Moore, and Kool-Aid.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

There's one appearance of a bottle of Scotch, it's mentioned that beer is sold in market stalls, and one character gargles with vodka for an antiseptic. Amoxicillin is a trade commodity. The fictional sedative "Lull" is used to knock people out a couple of times, and one adult character is addicted to it; it's shown being "whiffed" from inhalers.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Inhuman, by Dark Rising author Kat Falls, is an exciting blend of fantasy and science fiction. It's a dystopian novel that imagines a near-future United States where a viral infection causes genetic mutations, creating human-animal hybrids. Descriptions of violence are infrequent and mild until the climax, when beating, stabbing, fighting, and gunshots play a major role. There's much blood, including a few descriptions of dramatic injuries (for example, a hand getting chopped off). The strongest language is infrequent use of "crap." The story explores feelings of physical attraction and vaguely describes a few kisses. Main character Lane, 16, makes a strong action heroine: thoughtful, smart, resourceful, and brave.

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What's the story?

INHUMAN imagines a near-future United States devastated by a viral infection that causes genetic mutations. Creating human-animal hybrids, these mutations bring a strong fantasy element to a bleak, dystopian future. Everything east of the Mississippi River has been abandoned to the \"ferals,\" and people live behind a massive wall built along the river. However, survivors, some human and some hybrid, remain in the east. To save her father's life, heroine Lane has to risk infection and worse to bring something back from the wild, dangerous territory.

Is it any good?

Kat Falls starts off Inhuman at a brisk trot and builds nicely to a heart-pounding finish at full gallop. Her characters, both human and fantasy, are relatable and believable, with dialogue that rings true. The post-viral-apocalypse world is realistically and vividly imagined. A dramatic twist at just the right time will take readers by surprise. Suspense and peril ebb and flow at a good rate, which will keep those pages turning all the way to the big finish and satisfying ending.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Why are science fiction and fantasy so popular? Which parts of Inhuman are sci-fi, and which parts are fantasy? Do the two genres work well together?

  • Is it OK to treat the ferals the way they're treated in the kingdom of Chicago? Why, or why not? How does it compare to the way we treat animals or the way slaves were treated?

  • How does society cope with a massive, life-threatening viral outbreak in Inhuman? Does it seem realistic? What role does the mega-corporation Titan play, as opposed to the U.S. government?

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