With “Lifel1k3,” author Jay Kristoff takes readers on a wild ride in a bleak (so very bleak!) dystopian future where atomic bombs have destroyed much of the Yousay (USA, get it?) and California has become a barren island because of a huge earthquake. The ocean is filled with plastic and other garbage, and animals and trees are nonexistent.
In fact, robots and humans coexist in a depressing world with gray skies and a desperate struggle for survival. In this world lives Evie, with her grandfather, her best friend Lemon, and her robot best friend Cricket. This family group is wonderful, but Grandpa is dying from cancer, so Evie fights robots in an arena to win money to buy him medicine.
During one particularly difficult fight, she finds a new ability. This seemingly freakish ability to destroy robots attracts the attention of those who want to harm her. A red-robed group called the Brotherhood wants to nail her to a cross, but there is also a very strange individual, who calls himself the Preacher, who wants her for a mysterious nefarious reason. When the mobs find Evie, she and her friends manage to escape, but during the fight to escape, her grandfather is kidnapped by a lifelike robot. The rest of the family group sets out to find Grandpa and rescue him. With them is a lifelike robot named Ezekiel, who calls Evie by the name of Ana. Soon, Evie starts to remember things about her past that don’t add up. Is she Ana or Evie?
Her nightmares begin to make sense, and Evie is torn in deciding whether or not to trust Ezekiel. And during their journey across the desert, Evie must learn who she really is and what family means to her.
Kristoff’s writing is creative, and his world-building is effective. The future slang and language make sense, and the characters he creates will elicit feelings of sympathy and caring. Even though Kaiser is a robot dog with barely a bit of real organic dog in him, most readers will fall in love with him and want to pet his shiny metal head just to see his tail (not a real one) wag. Cricket, the small feisty robot with feelings and the ability to think, is an amazing creation — if only it were real.
The twists and turns are many, some surprising and some expected. But the ending leaves many questions for future books to reveal, and readers will want to know which of Evie’s family, friends, and foes will make the trip to the next dangerous plateau.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Knopf, for review purposes.