Panther in the Hive
Olivia A. Cole, author
Panther in the Hive is at once an unforgettable coming-of-age story and a captivating vision of an unsettling future. Tasha Lockett, orphan, oddball, and former fashion addict, is alone in a Chicago overrun with citizens-turned-weapons, the result of the cybertronic disaster that brought the country to its knees four days ago. When Tasha receives a letter from her estranged sister warning her of the catastrophe and urging her to travel to the South Side where there is rumored to be a safe zone, Tasha must face what the world has become. With only her precious Prada backpack and a sturdy kitchen knife, she embarks on an epic journey through the wasteland Chicago has become, forming alliances and discovering that although the world may be in pieces, she might still become whole. Readers who enjoy the likes of Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler will enjoy this coming of age adventure in a not-quite unrealistic setting. Readers have called Panther in the Hive "the intersection of I Am Legend and The Devil Wears Prada."
Cole debuts with a tense and intelligent post-apocalyptic story. In a not-distant future, America is divided along sharp socioeconomic lines. Tasha Lockett, an orphaned African-American young woman, works at a designer pet shop catering to wealthy Chicagoans, while her sister has moved to the now-seceded Nation of California. A token of upward social mobility is the “Chip,” a bodily implant provided to those who can afford the MINK health policy. But that was before the “Change,” when those with the Chip transformed into flesh-eating predators. Tasha leaves the refuge of her apartment, armed with a kitchen knife, in hopes of finding explanations, other unchanged survivors, and—potentially—a cure. Cole’s gritty novel incorporates themes of class warfare, racism, and the tolls of rampant consumerism, amid splashes of dark humor (as when Tasha casually takes out a man who changed while dressed as a hot dog). Throughout, Tasha’s humanity is poignantly conveyed in moments in which she steals away to a bathroom to apply makeup or clings to her Prada backpack as a last vestige of normalcy. A sequel is planned. Ages 12–up. (BookLife)