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Reviewed by:
  • The Explosionist
  • Elizabeth Bush
Davidson, Jenny; The Explosionist. HarperTeen, 2008; [464p] Library ed. ISBN 978-0-06-123976-2 $18.89 Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-123975-5 $17.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 7–10

Europe is poised on the brink of a second world war, with France eager to expand the dominance it established when Napoleon defeated Wellington at Waterloo over a century before. At stake in this alternative history fantasy is the survival of Scotland, whose monopoly of the explosives industry makes it a formidable international player, and the survival of Sophie and her Edinburgh high-school friends, who will certainly be called up for national service in the event of war. Their likeliest destination will be IRYLNS (Institute for the Recruitment of Young Ladies for National Security), an organization which Sophie’s great-aunt Tabitha helped found. Although many of Sophie’s schoolmates look forward to joining the ranks of the posh-looking young women in IRYLNS, Sophie hopes to go into university instead; her desire to bypass Aunt Tabitha’s organization becomes even more urgent when Sophie discovers that the IRYLNS corps are surgically altered to become receptacles for the negative emotions of their male bosses, who can then presumably perform their jobs in a rational and dispassionate manner. This hoary plotline harkens to The Stepford Wives, but since most readers will be unfamiliar with the predecessor, they can gasp right along with Sophie’s plight. Davidson adds such teen-friendly elements as Sophie’s crush on a teacher who may be implicated in terrorist acts, a blossoming romance with an old chum-turned-beau, spiritualism as a matter-of-fact component of everyday life, and lots of deliciously twisted name-dropping that will appeal to readers who’ve been paying attention in Western Civ class. Although no sequel is guaranteed, Davidson whisks Sophie out of the country just in time to save her sanity, should it be needed to change the course of history in a forthcoming title.



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