by D. Donovan (Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review)
Regina Shen and her family are outcasts in a world being deluged by rising waters from climate change – but a hurricane is proving to be the least of her problems as The World Federation which has condemned her family discovers that her unique DNA may prove the salvation of humanity itself; and so she goes from an unwanted outcast to a wanted outcast.
Only Regina’s knowledge of the swamps and wetlands created by climate change can keep her from the clutches of a savvy and sly Federation: but, for how long? She now has two problems: locating the family lost to her in the storm, and avoiding the bounty hunters and clutches of the Federation that rules her world.
Under a different hand, Regina Shen: Resilience (the first book in a projected series) could have been more one-dimensional (so many young adult dystopian stories are). Using a different approach, it could have focused on the physical challenges of disaster, on a teen girl’s coming of age, or on a family’s obstacles to survival. But any who expect Regina Shen to be your typical teen disaster story are in for a surprise: it tackles issues of freedom, domination, change in the face of challenge, and a feisty girl whose flexibility and love of learning prove her keys to success.
Regina’s acceptance of her world creates a story that is believable and involving on both a political and a personal level – and that’s a fine line indeed, incorporating elements of past and present events to create an atmosphere of future reality firmly cemented in present-day fact: “…life outside the Richmond Swamps seemed unimaginable. This was the only world I knew, unless you counted the literary world of banned books by ancients such as Charles Dickens, Isaac Asimov, and David Brin.”
In such a future, the fine lines between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are blurred – but Regina stands out firmly as ‘good’, even to strangers who encounter her. In such a world, the elements of survival are intrinsically linked to an ability to present a refreshingly honest face to strangers: “Therese couldn’t help wondering why the injured girl so interested Antiquities, the Federation, and her. Regina was a tough girl, a survivor, not unpleasant in the way other desperate souls became during and after storms. It had been the lack of guile that convinced Therese to help her…”
It’s Regina’s perceptions of the wants, needs, and efforts of those around her (strangers she encounters, who become ‘family’) that drives a story line that is personal as well as political (“Guilt. I’d added burdens on her while she tried to help me stay safe. Already, I thought of the twins as my sisters, though they couldn’t replace Colleen. But more bodies meant more heat signatures for patrols and bounty hunters to find.“). These elements, together, create a story line that is compelling, vivid, realistic, and with far more psychological depth than the usual young adult dystopian read.
In Regina’s world, there’s a lot to gain and a lot to lose. Resilience‘s satisfying conclusion leaves the door open for more Regina stories but provides a logical ending for this particular saga, which makes for both a powerful predecessor to a series and a rewarding stand-alone read.