Wooten, Neal. The Balance. Bold Strokes Books. 2014. $11.95. 264p. PB. 9781626390553.
Piri lives in a controlled environment above the clouds, an environment where everything is planned out from what you eat to when you die. He’s never thought to think twice about this until his nineteenth birthday when a lightning strike damages his transport and he crashes to the ground. His rescue team comes in the form of a mangy beast that licks rather than bites and a human male. His initial worries about how to get back to his city turn into worries about survival. Living with Niko, his rescuer, and Niko’s family, everything Piri knows and believes comes into question.
Neal Wooten creates a dystopian world of “Balance” where a city in the sky receives food from the surface, where villages on earth ship agricultural products to the city in the sky, and where Scavs live in the forest and terrorize the villages. On the surface, one of the best aspects of the Wooten’s world is a society in which no one dictates who people should love. Piri sees same sex couples as well as couples of the opposite sex and no one bats an eye. All the new things that Piri experiences from shoes to a beast/dog come together in a compelling story of first love, first loss, and the horrific reality of the “Balance.”
The primary use of Piri’s thoughts results in a more muted novel which may not be engaging for many of today’s teens. I would recommend The Balance for teens who enjoy a dystopian novel with a society that accepts all people regardless of who they love and Wooten’s writing style.
Ruth Compton, Youth Services Librarian
Arlington County Public Library (VA)