The Line by Teri Hall. Grades 4-7. Dial, March 2010. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.
Since she can remember, Rachel has lived near The Line, a force field erected to protect the United States from attackers - and to keep The Others out. She's always been fascinated by Away and often wonders what could be out there. But when she receives a message from Away, Rachel begins to uncover the terrible truths that her mother has been hiding from her.
Teri Hall has created an utterly terrifying future world rife with paranoia and a controlling government capable of atrocities beyond belief. Media is strictly controlled by the government. Only people with the money to pay exorbitant application fees can go to college to find a career. The less fortunate are forced to become laborers or sent to the army to fight in battles that continue to rage on the country's borders.
Everyone fears The Others that live across The Line. Rumors fly about what horrors exist outside The Line, but Rachel wonders if any of them are true.
I really enjoyed The Line and I think what I enjoyed most were the characters. Rachel is a smart girl with an indomitable spirit. She's curious about the world and about The Others and she cares about the people around her. She misses her father who was sent into battle and died when she was a little girl.
The reader also get snippets from different points of view - Rachel's mother, Ms. Moore (the woman who owns The Property). Each of them has secrets she is hiding from the others and over the course of the book, these secrets are revealed.
I will say that I found some of the details about the future world a bit confusing because they are so different from today's America (I am assuming here that the future world is supposed to be future America). The details are mostly presented by Rachel reciting history lessons for her mom as they homeschool, which didn't feel like the most organic presentation, but worked okay. But this is a minor flaw that didn't detract too much from my enjoyment of the story.
I would hand this to fans of The Giver by Lois Lowry or Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix. It will please fans of dystopian lit and kids will be clamoring for the sequel (Away, which will be released in 2011).