Waking up with a start, Stitches looked down and realized that she had old rusty chains restraining her paws.
Like a veteran writer (though only 12 when she wrote this), the author manages in just a few pages to bring the reader into a world similar to our own, but different. In this world, humans, called “Plain Ones,” live alongside another race called the Kin. When Stitches asks her new friend Pink why they’ve been locked up in a cell with dozens of other Kin, Pink is incredulous:
Pink groaned. “Oh, you gotta be kidding me. Have you been living under a rock your whole life or something?” . . . Pink shook her head and sighed. “Well, Stitches, prepare to be amazed! While you have been livin’ in your lil’ hole in the ground or whatever, the world around you has been going crazy. The Plain Ones, or what’s left of ‘em, have decided that us animal freaks are a threat, and now they’re hunting down whoever has a tail or unnatural abilities; pretty much anyone who’s not entirely human, you might say.” She flicked her tail. “Most of us are just shot on sight, and those are the lucky ones, believe it or not. The unlucky ones would be you and me and the others captured and held at these facilities where we are tortured for the rest of our lives.”
Stitches finally starts understanding what’s going on, and desperately wants to escape their prison. She says, “I don’t want to be here! I need to find my parents. I—”
She was interrupted by a stinging pain on her cheek, only to realize that Pink had slapped her. “You listen to me right now,” Pink said in a stern voice, holding Stitches’ shoulders and looking straight into her eyes. “You can’t freak out like this! I don’t know what your entire story is but you gotta be tough. News flash: this is the Wasteland. You gotta be tough in the Wasteland or you ain’t gonna last long. You wanna escape, huh? You wanna find your mommy ’n’ daddy? Well guess what? There are Kin out there who don’t have mommies or daddies ‘cause they’re all dead! You have to be strong, all right? That means no freaking out and making a scene!”
There is so much that works well in this story: the author’s strong sense of the world she’s created; the distinct voices of individual characters, which includes the use of dialect and slang; and the effective increase of tension as the stakes rise and the true threat becomes more evident.
Cell 22 is a stylish and smart novel with a graphic novel intensity and steampunk fun.