Fast-paced, suspenseful, and at times horrifying, O’Donnell’s compelling plot offers a prophetic imagining of American life in a capitalist totalitarian regime, though the world-building, localized to the Cold War Berlin-inspired split city, will leave readers eager for more information about this fallen future. The story develops with page-turning power: apart from having to deal with Mrs. De Young, the unpleasant owner of Redwood Manor, Abbie's working conditions, pay, and coworker relationships are better than she ever dared to imagine back in Eureka, especially with the sudden appearance of Dylan, an old flame. Abbie, meanwhile, proves an engaging, surprising character.
Abbie discovers the sinister schemes that fuel Redwood Manor and Port Allegiance as a whole, and what begins as a first step towards a new life plummets into a nightmare that threatens to wipe out the entire human population. Young readers should beware of the book’s depictions of violence and abuse, including sexual abuse, but on the whole, Tetherless, the first of O’Donnell’s Port Allegiance Chronicles, is a promising, debut with a classic setup: one young woman disrupting an empire.
Takeaway: Gritty story of a bold young woman in a class-segregated future California.
Comparable Titles:Tehlor Kay Mejia’s We Set the Dark on Fire series, Lauren Oliver’s Delirium.
Design and typography: A