David D. Bernstein (author) Victor Guiza (illustrator)
Outskirts Press (2021)
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (01/2022)
“Spirral” is the second book in The Cort Chronicles, a science fiction series for teens by David D. Bernstein.
In the story, a powerful corporation named CORT controls just about everything in the world. If successful in achieving total domination, human life as we know it will cease to exist. There is a resistance faction working to destroy the totalitarian conglomerate, including 4 teens selected as the “chosen ones.” They have a daunting task ahead of them, especially since CORT’s latest technology, “Spirral” appears to be indestructible. Do these kids have what it takes to save the world?
“Spirral” opens with the rescue of Andy, an eleven-year-old boy taken by CORT to one of their “remake” schools where he was subjected to torture and mind control. Andy, his brother Zack, and two teens from a different time, Wendy and John, learn that they are destined to save the world. Each are gifted with special powers to assist them on their mission, but will it be enough to overtake the evil CORT?
The author has built an eerie yet entertaining futuristic world from the remnants of a long-forgotten Earth. There’s magic and dystopia, a cautionary tale, coming of age, and the angst of first love all wrapped up in one story. One of the places the teens visit on their quest, Icy City, with its distorted view of heroism, reminded me of The Hunger Games.
I enjoyed the premise for this story, though I feel like more time could have been spent further developing the characters and the potentially epic dystopian world. It’s a bit rough around the edges both developmentally and polish-wise and felt like it was rushed to publication. The character seem to be confused themselves as to how old they are. Fleshing out the characters more would take their authenticity up a notch. The biggest reading deterrent for me was the dialogue between the characters as much of it feels forced with the constant dialogue tags stilting the flow of the reading.
Overall, “Spirral” is a good story that has the potential of being a great story, with a few tweaks. I thoroughly enjoyed the illustrations interspersed throughout the story. The series is best geared toward a middle grade crowd.