“The world was never as simple as you wanted to believe it was.”
Five years after the destruction of the so-called rehabilitation camps that imprisoned her and countless other Psi kids, seventeen-year-old Suzume “Zu” Kimura has assumed the role of spokesperson for the interim government, fighting for the rights of Psi kids against a growing tide of misinformation and prejudice. But when she is accused of committing a horrifying act, she is forced to go on the run once more in order to stay alive.
Determined to clear her name, Zu finds herself in an uncomfortable alliance with Roman and Priyanka, two mysterious Psi who could either help her prove her innocence or betray her before she gets the chance. But as they travel in search of safety and answers, and Zu grows closer to the people she knows she shouldn’t trust, they uncover even darker things roiling beneath the veneer of the country’s recovery. With her future-and the future of all Psi-on the line, Zu must use her powerful voice to fight back against forces that seek to drive the Psi into the shadows and save the friends who were once her protectors.
CW: gore, violence (including gun violence), graphic injury, human trafficking, loss of a loved one
Turns out that I wasn’t ready to let the TDM series go any more than Alex Bracken was, and I’m SO PLEASED to say that TDL really delivered. So often, a series addition that comes after the main series is finished can be weaker or less interesting, but that wasn’t the case this time. TDL actually might even be better than all of the books save for Never Fade, which is no small feat in my eyes.
For one, it was so nice to see Zu front and center, because we really get the full force of her. She’s angry and clever and fed up with playing by the rules that do nothing but make her and other Psi kids easier to walk all over. The five-year time skip also meant that the rest of the Black Betty crew wasn’t present for most of the story, giving Zu that extra room to breathe and grow and be incredible. Of course, when the BB crew showed up again in different bits of the story, it warmed my heart (guys…Chubs/Vida makes me so soft…what a dynamic…), but this is Zu’s book through and through, and she’s the one making decisions here. Not Ruby, not Liam, not Chubs, not Vida. It’s all Zu, and she makes a couple decisions, especially toward the end, that I thought were incredibly clever, taking what’s been pushed at her and reshaping it to her own brilliant ends.
The new supporting characters were interesting too! Roman is another one of those cinnamon roll boys, though with a decidedly darker past than Liam, and I appreciate the emphasis of family in his life. He’s a good egg with a rough shadow, and I love watching characters break away from their pasts like he tries to. And Priyanka, his best friend, is one of my new favorites. I would have LOVED to see more of her and Vida interacting, because I suspect those two could banter for a thousand years, but Vida doesn’t have to be in the picture for Priyanka to be smart and snarky and vibrant.
Bonus? Priyanka is sapphic! It’s not stated whether she’s a lesbian or bisexual or what, but she’s confirmed to have been in love with another female character in the book, so there is QWOC rep! And there’s two minor characters, both boys, who are also clearly dating, which is a huge leg up from how queer rep was (mis)handled in the original trilogy.
Finally, the other thing I liked is that, while it breaks the “everything will be okay” feeling you get at the end of ItA, TDL really digs into all the obstacles that have been in the way of the Psi kids since the camps were broken down. It’s far from a perfect world, riddled with injustice, but it also makes TDL stronger, because ultimately, it’s about Zu and kids like her taking their fate into their own hands instead of blindly trusting someone else to do right by them.
On the flip side, though, there were a couple things (small things mostly) that didn’t work for me. For one, I didn’t go head over heels for Zu’s romantic relationship because it just…didn’t do it for me. Very “it’s not you, it’s me” tbh. This is a complaint I have about so many things, haha.
More importantly, though, I feel like the ending was rushed in order to cram it all in. The antagonist reveals and motivations and origins felt like something that needed two books instead of one to feel the full weight of, especially since they’re not exactly light topics, but it burned by a little fast. The antagonist Priyanka and Roman have a personal connection to felt a little flat, which took away some of the oomph in the last 100 pages or so, and I wanted the rest of the antagonists to get what they deserved, though we really didn’t get to see that 100% in action.
And the kicker? Clancy Gray is in the wind again. He’s just a loose end, like his father, and I’m genuinely irritated he’s out and dangerous again. Then again, I really can’t stand Clancy (a great example of a villain you love to hate), so maybe I just want him cornered and defeated once and for all. That’s possible.
Altogether, though, TDL really impressed me, and I loved finally getting a chance to get into Zu’s head and see how she understands and interacts with the world, especially now that she’s five years out from the end of ItA. It’s maybe not the characterization I completely expected, but it fits so well, and I’m delighted I had the time to read it all in one sitting. 💛