Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation

Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation

by Sylvia Liu
Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation

Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation

by Sylvia Liu


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“A refreshing, imaginative take on a cyberpunk future, filled with wickedly cool technology and unraveling intrigue!” –Xiran Jay Zhao, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Iron Widow and Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor

Perfect for fans of Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee, this thrilling, cinematic sci-fi novel follows Hana Hsu’s mission to save herself—and her friends—from a dangerous plot to control their minds.

Hana Hsu can’t wait to be meshed.

If she can beat out half her classmates at Start-Up, a tech school for the city’s most talented twelve-year-olds, she’ll be meshed to the multiweb through a neural implant like her mom and sister. But the competition is fierce, and when her passion for tinkering with bots gets her mixed up with dangerous junkyard rebels, she knows her future in the program is at risk.

Even scarier, she starts to notice that something’s not right at Start-Up—some of her friends are getting sick, and no matter what she does, her tech never seems to work right. With an ominous warning from her grandmother about being meshed, Hana begins to wonder if getting the implant early is really a good idea.

Desperate to figure out what’s going on, Hana and her friends find themselves spying on one of the most powerful corporations in the country—and the answers about the mystery at Start-Up could be closer to home than Hana’s willing to accept. Will she be able to save her friends—and herself— from a conspiracy that threatens everything she knows?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593350393
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 06/21/2022
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 388,107
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)
Lexile: 740L (what's this?)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Sylvia Liu grew up with books and daydreams in Caracas, Venezuela. Once an environmental attorney protecting the oceans, she now spins stories for children, inspired by high tech, ghost crabs, and strong girls. Sylvia lives in Virginia with her family and a very fluffy cat. Find Sylvia on Twitter @artsylliu.

Read an Excerpt

Hana was late—and nowhere she was supposed to be.

She hurried through the junkyard, sidestepping the pits and sharp edges of scrap plastic and tire rims. She wrinkled her nose at the sour rot and waved away the cyber flies. Her eyes darted back and forth, scanning past the scavenger kids picking through the trash, on the lookout for her own prize.

She was here for a reason—she had to find the perfect piece for the pigeon automaton she was making for Lin. A few hours from now, her older sister would get meshed at the Enmesh Day Ceremony. Like all thirteen-­year-­olds, Lin would join the world of adults—her neural implants would activate, and her brain would be connected to the multiweb, online at all times.

The moment that happened, everything would change. Hana would be left behind. Until it was her turn to be meshed a year from now, Hana wouldn’t be able to compete with Lin’s meshed friends, and she just knew Linwould forget about her. She already kind of had.

The last time Hana and Lin had made bird bots together was when Ba was alive. They both used to tuck notes with their wishes inside the metal bellies and clever trapdoors, but now only Hana sent the bots to the wind, rattling off to who-­knew-­where, Lin too busy to bother with such “childish” things. It was Ba who’d always insisted on adding a pièce de résistance, the finishing touch that showed a bot was made with love.

That was what she was looking for—a special piece for Lin’s present. Finishing the bot for Lin was the best chance to reach her sister and hold on to what they had together.

At the top of a trash pile, Hana wiped her brow. The Atlantic breeze brought a welcome scent of salt air. A car buzzed overhead, flying toward City Center in the distance. Hana’s heart made like a hummingbird at the sight of the gleaming buildings and hovercars swarming like glittery insects. In a few hours, she’d be there in the thick of the excitement, watching her sister get meshed and enjoying her own Start-­Up festivities.

Her comm vibrated and rang.

Aiya. It was Ma’s ringtone, an oldie techno song from the 2020s. She didn’t need to hear Ma say, Hana Hsu, get home right this instant, so she swiped it off. Since Ba died a year ago, Ma had thrown herself into her genetic research, a rocket shooting to the stars while burning Hana to cinders in her wake. And now Ma expected her to jump at her call? No thanks. Besides, she’d be home soon, so there was nothing for Ma to worry about.

A glint in the trash caught her eye. Hana scrambled down to it. Peeking from the rubble was a small, round item with gears and hands, an antique watch like the ones Ba used to collect.

It was perfect—as if Ba had reached across from the other side to give her a gift on this special day.

Hana reached for the treasure.

A hand darted across her view and snatched it away.

“Hey.” She looked up and her stomach clenched.

The girl towering over her was solidly built, with almost-­white, spiky hair and ice-­blue eyes. She wore agrimy tank top, cargo pants, and scuffed-­up boots. An octopus tattoo crawled up her left arm and a crab was inked on her right wrist. The scavenger kids at the junkyard had never bothered her before, treating her like an eccentric visitor. Why, of all days, did she have to be picked on today?

Hana decided she couldn’t show any fear. “I saw it first.”

“Too bad, cuz I got it first.” The girl dangled the watch from its cracked band and inspected it with a smug smile. She looked a few years older than Hana, maybe fifteen or so.

Hana’s heart thumped, but she glared at the girl. There was no way she was going home without the watch. “Why do you want it? I thought y’all only want pricey things like nickel and tin.”

The girl raised an eyebrow. “A Vista Vap telling me what I want? That’s rich.”

Hana prickled at the slur but swallowed a retort. No point in getting her butt kicked today. “I’m sorry. I was curious.”

“Curious? Haven’t you heard curiosity killed the crow?” The girl pocketed the watch.

Hana’s heart sank. She didn’t have time to find another part, and she really had to get back home.

The girl narrowed her eyes. “What are you doing in the Bottoms?” Her lips twisted into a smirk. “The Dump’s no place for a nice girl from the Vistas.”

Nice girl? Hana ignored the jibe. “I make things. Auto­matons.”

“Like robots?”

“Not really. They’re mechanical, like wind-­up toys,” Hana said. “I mean, they’re not toys.”

“How can you have bots without a power source?”

This girl actually seemed curious. She couldn’t be allthat bad if she was interested in automatons. Hana reached into her messenger bag and pulled out her almost-­finished bird. “I call them bots for short, but they’re not really robots. See? It works with springs and gears.”

The girl tossed her a sharp look. “I’ve seen those before.” She reached for it. “Let me see that.”

Hana clutched the bot close. What had she been thinking, showing this girl her bird? This wasn’t one that Hana planned to share with others—this was for Lin. And even the ones she sent out in the world weren’t meant for this girl, either. She’d had some silly idea a kindred soul would find her notes, but this was no such person. This was a tattooed stranger who looked like she beat up people for fun.

The girl’s eyes flitted from the automaton to Hana. “Getting jacked tonight?”


“You know, brain-­jacked? Meshed?”

“Not this year. I’m only twelve.” Hana couldn’t wait to be meshed, to be like her sister and Ma, though the girl’s junkyard slang made it sound less appealing. “But I’m a Start-­Up,” she added, unable to hide the pride in her voice.

The girl raised an eyebrow. “Careful with that.”

“What do you mean?” Being a Start-­Up was an honor.

The girl shrugged. “Not everything’s what it seems.”

Hana frowned. She’d never met anyone who hadn’t wanted to join the elite Start-­Up program. But this girl wasn’t like anyone she’d ever met. She drew herself up and held out her hand. “May I have the watch?”

The girl’s ice eyes bore into hers, and she broke into a grin. “All right.” As she reached into her pocket, the girl’s gaze blanked out—the telltale sign of an incoming call on her neural network. She scanned the horizon warily. “You better get out of here. It’s not safe.”

A piercing whistle rang out.

“Jing Za!” a boy with matted brown hair yelled as he ran by.

“Huaidan!” the girl cursed.

Other scavengers grabbed their packs and scattered.

A junkyard sweep by the Jing Za, the private security guards of the I Ching Corporation. Gut-cramping fear twisted Hana’s stomach. Scavengers weren’t technically allowed to scrounge at corporate-­owned junkyards, but she’d never heard of them enforcing the rules. She’d never once seen a member of the Jing Za here.

The girl took off.

Hana stared for a moment and chased after her—better to stick with someone who knew what to do.

They scrabbled over faded plastics, their feet skittering over the uneven ground. The tattooed girl was faster, but Hana lunged after her.

The Jing Za came into view, three trash piles away. Two men in mesh exoskeleton suits and the distinctive I Ching red helmets made quick work of the first junk heap. Not surprising, with their extra-­powered legs.

As they ran, the girl yelled over her shoulder, “Stop following me. The Za want me, not you.” She peeled away.

The girl ran forward, pulling something from her pocket. She paused by an old tire, gave Hana a pointed look, and stuffed the thing into the hollow of the tire, then clambered up over the ridge and disappeared.

Hana raced down the trash pile in the opposite direction. Frantically scanning the area, she spotted a gap in the garbage and scrambled in. She wedged herself in a cavity full of shadows, held up by metal beams. Scrunching into a ball, Hana tried to control her ragged panting.

Heavy steps sounded nearby.

“Don’t let them get away.”

“One of them has it.”

Hana stilled herself as best she could, wondering what “it” was that the I Ching goons were after.

She could not get caught. I Ching was one of the most powerful corporations in the world and had their tentacles everywhere. And to complicate things, Ma worked at I Ching as a high-­level scientist. If Hana got on their radar, she’d for sure get her mom in trouble. Even worse, the Jing Za, like all corporate police, picked people off the streets and held them hostage until they paid “fines.” It was a more civilized way to deal with lawbreakers than the old police and court systems, but Hana had heard of people who couldn’t afford to pay the fines to get out, or families who had to give up their houses just to get the money together. Hana had to keep quiet and out of sight.

Her comm rang.

Super loudly.

Hana fumbled to silence Ma’s ringtone.

But it was too late.

A rough hand dragged her out of her hiding spot. Blinking, she found herself face-­to-­chest with one of the Jing Za, a man with too many muscles bunched all over his body.

He lifted her by the elbow, almost dangling her in the air. “What do we have here?” His breath smelled like onions.

Hana’s vision narrowed and everything slowed. This was so not how this day was supposed to turn out. “Excuse me, I’m lost,” she stammered. Her best hope was to play little lost Vista girl.

“We’ll see about that.” The man twisted close to scan her iris.

This was no good.

She looked away to avoid being scanned and kicked his shin as hard as she could. With a grunt of surprise, the man loosened his hold on Hana, allowing her to wrench away and run.

Hana shot through the narrow clearing between the garbage mounds, past stacks of hubcaps and metal pieces. A metal bar stuck out of the trash, and Hana grabbed it with all her might.

It slid out. The pile of junk above it shifted and tumbled behind Hana and blocked the officer chasing her. One of the pieces scraped her shoulder painfully as she surged forward, narrowly avoiding the rest of the falling debris.

A shout came from above. “Forget that one,” the officer cried. “We want the ones with the crab tattoos.”

The one chasing her took off after his partner.

Hana doubled over, catching her breath. Out of the corner of eye, she spotted the tire the girl had stopped at. She must have left her the watch. Glancing around, Hana reached into the tire’s hollow and swept her hand inside, trying not to think of spiders. Her fingers landed on a metallic object the size of her thumb.

She pulled it out.

An e-­scroll lay in her palm, the metalloid cylinder glinting in the sun.

Her heart hammered. Was this what I Ching was after? There was no way she should take the scroll. The whole thing screamed danger, maybe even crime. She should leave it here and go home.

But she remembered the pointed look the girl gave her. It had to be a silent plea to take it and keep it safe. Her curiosity got the better of her.

She closed her hand around the scroll, stuffed it in her pocket, and ran.

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