Author: Karen Sandler
Publisher: Tu Books an imprint of Lee & Low Books, Inc.
Publish Date: September 15 2011
Tankborn by Karen Sandler tells the story of fifteen year old Kayla and her best friend Mishalla. Kayla is waiting to be given an Assignment, something all GENs (Genetically Engineered Non-humans) receive when they turn fifteen. And then these GENs are sent away from their families, sometimes so far away they can never return, in order to complete these jobs. And, since GENs aren't allowed to use any form of communication except word of mouth, they usually never get the chance to speak to their families or friends again. Mishalla has already been assigned as a Nurturer in a far off sector of Loka. But that's not true. Mishalla was assigned as a Nurturer, but she's a lot closer than Kayla believes. Both Kayla and Mishalla begin to realize that something is not right in their society, and it's not just the injustice towards GENs. Something much more sinister is going on and their worlds will be turned upside down as they come together to figure it out.
Sandler has created a rich, realistically complex fantasy world with Tankborn. The characters are deeply ingrained in their world, they were raised there and don't rush to explain to the reader the complexities of it. At first their world, their society, seems strange and confusing. I wondered about everything. What words meant, what objects were, what the animals they describe would look like. It was like being a child and having to re-learn everything. But then it started coming to me. Once I started to see the complexity in Sandler's world, I couldn't put it down. There are different kinds of people, vastly different social classes, complete religions. And then Sandler takes everything you've learned and turns it's completely upside down. Tankborn is a riveting young adult novel that will keep you reading long into the night just to find out what happens next.
The point of view changes from time to time throughout the book. It doesn't change too often, and Sandler gives you plenty of time to really get to know the characters. And then usually switches off just before something big is going to happen, leaving you thinking you want to rush through the next chapter to get back to where the action is. But then she'll do the same thing again and you'll be so caught up in the story you won't want to switch back.
Some of the characters, for me at least, seemed to take longer to get to know. I enjoyed reading from Devak's point of view right away, where as it took me a while to warm up to Mishalla. But I can honestly say I loved Eoghan from the first time he showed up. He was just so sweet. Following Mishalla around like a puppy, helping her with her nurture children. I fell in love.
Then, of course, there's Devak and Kayla. Their story is a little trickier. They both suffer from the same problem. They both believe what society has told them about one another. Devak is a stuck up, mean jerk because he's a trueborn. It's how he was created, so it must be true. Kayla is just a no class GEN. Not even worth taking a second glance at. Someone created her in a lab, so that obviously means she's less than a human. What these characters were missing was that they're the same, despite their difference in social status. And that's what brings them together so nicely. Neither is what they were raised, created, to be. They're just people, even if they were born in a lab. But it's not exactly Devak and Kayla's fault for believing these differences matter. It's how society raised them, how their world works. What matters is that they realize that society is wrong.
Their whole society and caste system is determined mostly by skin color. It plays a huge role in Tankborn. They saw each other as shades of colors, even the trueborns. They used it as a way of telling the different statuses apart. The way even the slightest shade off of high status trueborn color could put you in a lower status. But at the same time, skin color doesn't determine your status for sure. Money will always have the most effect on social status in our world and the same is true on Loka. As long as a trueborn had the money, it didn't matter what they looked like, although they were still looked down on for it. Even GENs, the lowest of the low, could see it was only money which kept these trueborns in power.
The whole time I was reading I just kept thinking "There is no way people can possibly be this inconsiderate of others. Just because someone's different doesn't give you the right to treat them that way. Like slaves! Just because they aren't as rich as you doesn't mean you can treat them like trash. Don't these people have any compassion?!" But sadly, greed and fear usually do cause people to do horrible things to one another. Including bigotry. The world of Tankborn really puts that into prospective.
Tankborn was suspenseful and kept me desperately trying to figure out the plot twist. The entire time I was reading I knew something big was coming, I could see the pieces of the puzzle, I just couldn't put them together no matter how hard I tried. I had guesses and assumptions, but no proof that I was right about any of them. But then, over the course of a few chapters near the end, it all started clicking. I am usually able to figure out where a story is going pretty quickly. Sometimes I can tell just from the synopsis, but with Tankborn it kept me guessing. Flipping through different what-if's in my head. I think that's what hooked me, what kept me reading much longer than I should have. I enjoyed being surprised by the great plot twists, having more pieces click into place as I read.
And the way Sandler leaves the ending open for a sequel leads me to believe we'll be seeing Kayla and Devak again in the future. And hopefully someday the citizens of Loka, all citizens, even GENs, will get their happy ending.