TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
Going in, I knew "The Diary of Pelly D" was a sci fi novel about a futuristic society on a distant planet in which all of humanity (well, ok, humanity with gills … work with me here!) was lab-created from three lines of genes. I figured it would be a typical "future dystopia" novel, that is, a story about a future world in which society is negative, restrictive, or otherwise oppressive. But "The Diary of Pelly D" is so much more than that; it is nothing less than a story about the Holocaust, although cast as a sci fi novel.
We start right off with 14 year-old Toni V working on a demolition gang in City Five, clearing away the rubble of the main plaza following a devastating war. During the blasting, Toni V finds a diary in an empty water can. Although forbidden to do so — workers are to immediately turn over any written relics to authorities — he takes it back to his barracks-like dormitory and secretly reads it each night.
Pelly D's diary starts out in a pretty ordinary fashion. She's a rich, bratty, spoiled girl. Her days are mostly filled with shopping, flirting, and lounging in her holo-pool or fooling around at Water World (again, these folks are like us but they have gills, so water is a crucial element for their survival). Slowly, though, the diary comes to reflect the very troubled times in City Five. The general of their sister city, City One, begins to claim that his city is suffering from a crippling water shortage. Allegedly to speed the irrigation project along, the general begins summoning members of the "lesser" gene lines to City One, including Pelly D's best friend, who is never seen or heard from again. What follows is forced genetic testing, a literal branding of people's hands according to their gene line, unthinkable restrictions of basic freedoms, communication blackouts, fear, suspicion, and violence. What's great is that all this repression occurs so gradually that, like Pelly D, you'll find yourself shocked at how completely her society has broken down.
This novel reads very quickly, as Toni V's life conducting backbreaking manual labor in present-day City Five is interspersed with the actual pages from Pelly D's diary. Pelly D writes in a modified text-speak, so all you teen readers should be well accustomed to her style. While Toni V's character remains a bit distant, Pelly D really comes to life through the pages of her diary. You will find yourself pulled into this story about a world that looks all too much like our own, and in which quietly awful things happen while ostensibly good people turn the other way. I found this book to be absolutely devastating, and, if you're at all like me, the ending will stay with you long after you're finished. I strongly recommend this book to any readers, boys or girls, in about grade 7 or up, particularly those who are fans of books like "The Giver," "House of the Scorpion," or Scott Westerfeld's "Uglies" series. If you give it a chance, I think you'll take a lot away from "The Diary of Pelly D."