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Pills and Starships

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Overview


Named a "Book that Buzzed at ALA" by Library Journal's Barbara Hoffert!

"Pills and Starships, the first young adult novel by Lydia Millet, offers one thrillingly scary scenario...There is much here to enjoy."
--Washington Post

"A deep read, but fast; it lingers in your mind long after it's been read."
--New York Journal of Books

"In the remaining wilderness of the Big Island, though, lurk people and terrain ...

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Overview


Named a "Book that Buzzed at ALA" by Library Journal's Barbara Hoffert!

"Pills and Starships, the first young adult novel by Lydia Millet, offers one thrillingly scary scenario...There is much here to enjoy."
--Washington Post

"A deep read, but fast; it lingers in your mind long after it's been read."
--New York Journal of Books

"In the remaining wilderness of the Big Island, though, lurk people and terrain that may or may not spell constructive revolution and optimism for Sam, Nat and the planet's leftovers. Risk-takers both, they have decisions to make."
--Center for Fiction, Junior edition

One of The Airship/Black Balloon Publishing's 50 Must-Reads for Summer!

One of Missoulian/Corridor's Summer Reading Guide picks!

"Millet's dense novel has more in common with philosophy than with fantasy...Millet, never a writer to settle into predictable patterns, manages to find beauty in ugly places...this is the best thing about Millet's work: it makes you notice the small details of the natural world, makes you recognize those details as holy."
--The Rumpus

"Lydia Millet offers a brilliant dystopian novel that eclipses all others written for Young Adults with this beautifully written, dark but ultimately hopeful tale."
--The Buffalo News

"If your summer goal is to start taking better care of the environment (a goal inspired, perhaps, by a trip to one of New York's trash-laden beaches), grab a book that explores a world devastated by global warming: Pills and Starships by Lydia Millet."
--The Airship/Black Balloon Publishing

"Dark apocalyptic reading at its best...vivid, moving saga that will attract mature teen fans of Divergent, Hunger Games, and similar apocalyptic survival stories."
--Midwest Book Review

"[A] rare gem of a book."
--Paperboat Sails

"Killer first lines are like gold dust and this is a doozy: There was a time, not long ago, when it was illegal to kill people."
--LitReactor

"Millet presents environmental issues she's dealt with before, but embeds them in engaging story, and sympathetic characters, lively voice, and a little, satisfying 'ick.'"
--Tuscon Weekly

In this richly imagined dystopic future brought by global warming, seventeen-year-old Nat and her hacker brother Sam have come by ship to the Big Island of Hawaii for their parents' Final Week. The few Americans who still live well also live long—so long that older adults bow out not by natural means but by buying death contracts from the corporates who now run the disintegrating society by keeping the people happy through a constant diet of "pharma." Nat's family is spending their pharma-guided last week at a luxury resort complex called the Twilight Island Acropolis.

Deeply conflicted about her parents' decision, Nat spends her time keeping a record of everything her family does in the company-supplied diary that came in the hotel's care package. While Nat attempts to come to terms with her impending parentless future, Sam begins to discover cracks in the corporates' agenda and eventually rebels against the company his parents have hired to handle their last days. Nat has to choose a side. Does she let her parents go gently into that good night, or does she turn against the system and try to break them out?

But the deck is stacked against Nat and Sam: in this oppressive environment, water and food are scarce, mass human migrations are constant, and new babies are illegal. As the week nears its end, Nat rushes to protect herself and her younger brother from the corporates while also forging a path toward a future that offers the hope of redemption for humanity. This page-turning first YA novel by critically acclaimed author Lydia Millet is stylish and dark and yet deeply hopeful, bringing Millet's characteristic humor and style to a new generation of young readers.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Kristi Bernard
Natalie’s journal world is a place to which she escapes. In her journal, she writes as though talking to aliens arriving after her world is gone and describes a life she heard about in stories from her aging parents and information obtained by watching old screen shows. In her present world, corporations manage life; the last of the forests are being eaten by beetles; people are standing in line for medicines to cure diseases brought on by mosquitoes and flies—all due to global warming. Her aging parents, now in their eighties and nineties, have signed a death contract with the Corp to end their lives. While Natalie writes in her journal, her rebel younger brother Sam hacks into Corp data and conducts research. The family is supposed to be spending their last week together, coping with their moods and feelings via meds (pharma) provided for them. By the time Sam convinces Natalie the Corp is secretly conspiring to control population, they have less than five days to save their parents and all of the rebels from the Corp plans. Unfortunately for them, a large storm is approaching and that could stop everything the rebels have sacrificed. Can Sam and Natalie save themselves, their parents, and the rebels against the Corp and a vicious storm? And if so, then what? Author Lydia Millet has created a story that is filled with possibilities from the effects of global warming and a changing world. This “it could happen” feeling readers will get gives pause and has readers questioning the “what if’s.” Readers will enjoy the change in the characters and excitedly turn the pages to see the fight all the way to the end. Parents and teachers will approve. This is a great read-aloud story for classrooms that will encourage conversation about our real changing world. Reviewer: Kristi Bernard; Ages 12 up.
School Library Journal
05/01/2014
Gr 7–10—Earth reached its ecological tipping point some years ago, and corporations now manage all aspects of life. No more babies are being born, the elderly must purchase contracts to die, and drugs ("pharma") control a dwindling human population. Natalie's parents have purchased a death contract, and they have one final week together. The 17-year-old must keep a journal, which she addresses to an unknown space traveler—the only place where starships come into the story. As the Bountiful Passing approaches, Nat and her rebellious younger brother, Sam, begin to make plans to save their parents, or, at the very least, to rescue themselves from the tyranny of the corps and their Death Math. A predictable plot and strained teen voice distract from the very beginning and with 90-plus pages of backstory, the real action doesn't begin until well into the book. The ecological theme, clearly a passion of the author, unfortunately comes across as too heavy-handed and didactic in tone. An additional purchase only.—Katherine Koenig, The Ellis School, PA
Kirkus Reviews
2014-04-16
Millet imagines a dystopic near future in which the well-heeled make death a family affair.Their parents have brought Nat, 16, and her brother, Sam, 14, to the island of Hawaii to witness their chosen death in a six-day, drug-drenched farewell ceremony, carefully scripted by its corporate sponsor. Even for the well-off, long life in a world of anoxic oceans and animal extinctions no longer appeals. Like most other kids, Nat's resigned to a future without parents; rebellious Sam is less accepting. When, from beneath the glossy surface, a disturbing reality begins to emerge, Nat's emotionally flat narration makes it hard to care. Passive and without affect, she accepts her parents' choices and later abandons her brother during a horrendous storm with elegiac regret. Despite exposition that's rarely interrupted by dialogue, this world's puzzlingly out of focus, real places carelessly portrayed. The novel's narrative conceit has Nat explaining her story to a hypothetical distant reader. Summarizing the action robs it of suspense and interest: Readers do not see the story unfold and watch characters act and interact, making it difficult for them to interpret their behavior for themselves.Detail may be the lifeblood of fiction, but storytelling is its pumping heart; without it, this all-premise effort is DOA. (Science fiction. 12-16)
From the Publisher

"By no means is [dystopia] composed of only novice authors. We can't wait for Pulitzer Prize-nominated Lydia Millet's upcoming novel, Pills and Starships, set in a world where babies are illegal."
--Glamour

Included in Teen Librarian Toolbox's list of forthcoming CliFi (climate fiction) titles

"We recommend checking out this novel--which manages to be both frightening and hopeful--whether you're young or old."
--Endangered Earth Online

"Gripping...how the future is likely to be for our younger generation if the current situation of environmental degradation is allowed to continue."
--Greener Ideal

"Millet's prose is strong, her neologisms are fun, and the story caught me right up."
--M. Fenn

"An engaging epistolary novel that's part science fiction and part cautionary tale."
--Joe Follansbee

"Millet's YA debut is a gem: unnerving and luminous in equal measures....Pitch-perfect...This is a smart, soulful book."
--The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

"This is a fantastic futuristic dystopian novel that every teen and adult should read!"
--Jenn's Review Blog

"Lydia Millet has constructed a landscape of horror against a typically beautiful backdrop, making the Huxley-esque society all the more disturbing...Sci fi readers looking for a new twist on classic themes are sure to enjoy this new novel."
--Write All the Words!

"A good, worthy book...with a memorable voice and an important message."
--Christopher East

"If you want to think, and you want to know what it truly would be like living in a realistic dystopian society, read this novel."
--With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

"Wow. Just wow...If you like postapocalyptic, dystopian, or just beautiful writing, check this book out. It will blow your mind."
--Cherry Blossoms & Maple Syrup

"A dystopian novel that paints a horrifying realistic future by exploiting the truths of today."
--Becoming Books

"Pills and Starships feels very much like the spirit of our time."
--Online Eccentric Librarian

"Nat and Sam were both characters that were a joy to read....Can be enjoyed by people of all ages."
--Twin Spin

"This is not a slow book and is very hard to put down."
--Pub Writes

"Fascinating and thought provoking! Pills and Starships is a chilling look at an ecologically damaged future where big business and the government have not only seized control of the surviving population through drugs, but have taken charge of death itself. Lydia Millet has raised questions that will resonate with readers for years to come."
--Joelle Charbonneau, author of The Testing

"A beautiful glimpse of a dark and outrageous future--utterly confident and terrifying and exciting for readers of any age. You'll read it with the lights on and then you'll turn them off because you're wasting electricity."
--Adam Rex, author of The True Meaning of Smekday

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781617752766
  • Publisher: Akashic Books
  • Publication date: 6/10/2014
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 197,231
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Lydia Millet

Lydia Millet is the author of seven novels for adults as well as a story collection called Love in Infant Monkeys (2009), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her first book for middle-grade readers, The Fires Beneath the Sea, was one of Kirkus’ Best Children’s Books of 2011, as well as a Junior Library Guild selection. Millet works as an editor and writer at a nonprofit in Tucson, Arizona, where she lives with her two young children.
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Customer Reviews

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    Posted June 21, 2014

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