08 February, 2022

[Review] Cleo Porter and the Body Electric by Jake Burt

Cover image from the TheStoryGraph Site.

Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Release Date: 6 October, 2020
Publisher: Squarefish, an imprint of Macmillan Kids
Genre: Juvenile Fiction/Children's/Science Fiction
ISBN: 9781250802729
Edition: Paperback (also available in Hardback, Audiobook, and eBook)
Review Written: 7 February, 2022
Mentions of Death, Fire/Fire Injury, Animal Death, Minor Violence, Panic/Anxiety Attacks
A woman is dying. Cleo Porter has her medicine... and no way to get it to her.

Like everyone else, twelve-year-old Cleo and her parents are sealed in an apartment without windows or doors. They never leave. They never get visitors. Their food is dropped off by drones. So they're safe. Safe from the disease that nearly wiped humans from the earth. Safe from everything. The trade-off?

They're alone. Thus, when they receive a package clearly meant for someone else - a package containing a substance critical for a stranger's survival - Cleo is stuck. As a surgeon-in-training, she knows the clock is ticking. But people don't leave their units.

Not ever.

Until Now.

See more by Jake Burt on his website.
Cleo Porter has always lived inside the same apartment, she's never been outside, and has only ever seen grass when it comes in for her father to study. Cleo's life is much like everyone else's that she knows, you don't go outside, you don't leave your comfortable home. There aren't even any windows or doors to allow for you to go. Everything is designed to keep you safe and prevent the end of humanity from Influenza D. Everything is fine... until it isn't.

Cleo, who's been studying for her surgeon's exam since she was 6, finds a package delivered to their apartment for someone else. Something like this isn't supposed to happen. In vain she attempts to find a way to return or reorder a package to the person, worried because the medicine is designed to keep someone alive. And it's a month-long supply. Frustrated by the lack of help from her parents, Cleo sets out on a dangerous mission, to deliver the medicine herself when she sees no other option.

Thus Cleo is thrust into a large number of unknowns. Getting out of her apartment was the first step, now she has to navigate the hallways of drones and avoid being hurt in the process as she works on finding her way to the correct recipient's apartment in time.

This novel was selected as one of the South Carolina Juvenile Book Award Nominees for the 2022-2023 school year. It was through this nomination that I first learned about this book. My initial thought from the description was this book sounded interesting, though I was a bit wary. Obviously at some point in the book's history, there was a pandemic - making this "pandemic fiction". With the burnout from the COVID-19 pandemic being real, I wasn't sure how I felt about the premise. It seemed almost a little too real with the thought of people sealing themselves up in their apartments and houses. Pandemic as a plot key can be very hit or miss, but Jake Burt does an excellent job in making sure that it is present but not the main feature.

Some of Cleo's plight seems a bit wild to me, but I know that I am much older than the target demographic of this book. It was good to see Cleo grow and learn with each new situation and she was very well-rounded. Mr. Burt also managed to pull off a twist at the end that I didn't see coming (a rarity for me, I tend to see plot twists coming). All in all, this book was an aptly chosen book, featuring a spunky twelve-year-old protagonist that will definitely pull on some heartstrings.

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