Book Review: Pale

By: Chris Wooding
Published by Stoke Books
Release Date: September 10, 2012
Genre: YA sci-fi
72 pages 
Buy it on Amazon, IndieBound
 or Barnes and Noble
Source: kindly provided by publisher via NetGalley

My thoughts: 
There are several important issues integrated into this novella.

The issue of ethics in biotechnology runs in the background, since the premise of the book is dependent upon a medical treatment known as the Lazarus serum, which is capable of revitalizing some people after they have died. It doesn't work on everyone- some people are just not biological matches, and those whose bodies are severely damaged cannot be brought back. Though it's not thoroughly discussed (mostly because the narrator is a child), the ethical  undercurrent is there.

Prejudice is explored,  in the form of people's ill-treatment of those who have received the Lazarus serum. Those people who have received the serum are easy to spot, since their skin, eyes and hair are all lacking much color- hence the common practice of calling them Pales. The living generally don't welcome their company; they are uncomfortable around people who no longer age, have a heartbeat, or a need to breathe. Statements are made in the book that are reminiscent of what is traditionally considered racism, such as, "You all look alike to me." The most interesting part of this treatment is that one character gets to experience both sides.   

Bullying is another theme. The book opens on a scene of a Pale getting beaten up for going to school, because the other children tell him he doesn't belong there. The abuse is chronic, and all about exerting power over another. As is often true in real life, those who have the power to stop it try to do what they can, but are largely unsuccessful.

At this short length, Wooding has sparsely filled out the plot, leaving some of the intricacies to be considered by the reader without his guidance. I LOVE this as a possible classroom read, with all the discussion that could follow. It's a story that won't take you long to read, but will have you pondering the finer points for long afterward.

Summary from GoodReads:

The Lazarus Serum can bring you back from the dead. Only thing is, it turns you into a Pale. Jed can't imagine anything worse, but then the choice is taken out of his hands...


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