When spoiled, wealthy children need to be punished, their proxies take their place, in payment for debts accrued during miserable lives of poverty in the outskirts of Mountain City (a futuristic Denver). As the proxy for perennial bad boy Knox Brindle, sixteen-year-old Sydney Carton has endured his fair share of abuse, but now Knox has killed an innocent girl and Syd is expected to take the punishment, including the lengthy prison sentence. Instead, Sydney escapes, and eventually Knox changes sides and makes himself a hostage to aid the getaway. On the run together, the two boys dodge security forces, mercenary bandits, dangerous animals, and rebels out to exploit them. What neither realizes, however, is that Syd's blood hides a secret that could be the key to bringing the whole social system crashing down, and people are willing to do anything to get it. A science fiction adventure that packs an emotional punch, this novel pairs well-crafted storytelling with solid character development. The true power here lies less in the sometimes slight world-building than in the story's philosophical underpinnings and the personalities of the main characters. The narrative manages to redeem the seemingly irredeemable and to cast the abused as more than a victim, at the same time creating a gay action hero whose sexuality is only one facet of his character. While the novel draws heavily from the historical precedent of whipping boys and the moral journey at the heart of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, readers unfamiliar with the historical and literary contexts will still appreciate the story's deeper implications. Additionally, they will be drawn into a poignant story of friendship and self-sacrifice, with a impressive ending without a clear resolution that will leave them anxious for planned sequels.