Carter convincingly shows readers an America in the not-so-distant future in this dystopian series-starter, after which they will be emotionally exhausted, but so ready for more. Some might jump to the conclusion that this is another Hunger Games wannabe, and while the similarities are there, Pawn holds its own. Carter is excellent at setting the scene, from the desolate inner city to the palace-like government headquarters. But what really invests readers are the perfectly flawed characters.
Kitty just got the results of her test: The one every citizen must take at age 17 to decide their future. She’s branded with a III on the back of her neck. At least it’s better than a II or a I, but she’ll remain below the IVs, Vs and VIs for the rest of her life. Unwilling to take the job the government assigns her and lose the love of her life, Benjy, she goes to an underground club of illegal prostitution. On her first night, Kitty’s highest bidder turns out to be the prime minister, and he makes her an offer she can’t refuse: a VII, the rank citizens can only be born with. But, of course, there’s a catch. Kitty wakes up two weeks later Masked (or surgically transformed) into Lila Hart, a member of the most powerful family in America. She is forced to be part of the brewing rebellion in the country she only thought she knew. (HARLEQUIN TEEN, Dec., 352 pp., $17.99, ISBN: 9780373210558, HC, 14 & Up)