Review of The Papercutter by Cindy Rizzo
The Papercutter offers us a possibility for what our near future in the USA might look like. The country has split into two nations: the God-Fearing States (GFS), which is ultra-conservative, technically backward, and racist. Think red hats. The other states belong to the United Progressive Regions (UPR) where advancements like brain interface tech and green initiatives are part of daily life. The UPR has a diverse population and embraces cultures, color, and LGBTQ as integral to society so it’s what many of us hope our country will become.
When a Jewish pen pal program is set up to bridge the two sides of Ohio, High Schoolers Dani Fine from the UPR and Jeffrey Schwartz from the GFS are paired up. It doesn’t take long for secrets to be shared, personal ones, as well as revealing the dangerous changes emerging in the increasingly intolerant GFS.
There’s a bit of everything in this book. Jeffrey and his pal, Judith, are both Orthodox Jews and trying to determine where they fit within their community. Jeffrey knows that he’s gay but Judith only knows that she dreads what adulthood holds for her. That is until she lays eyes on Dani and the planet tips. They’re all heroes in the making. They just don’t know it yet but revolution begins in the heart. When the GFS hate is codified into laws restricting freedom and inciting violence against the Jewish residents, Jeffrey, Judith, and their mentors organize to fight back. When I read that part, all I could think of was SB202, the voter suppression bill in Georgia, and the anti-Trans bills springing up around the USA.
Dani and her friends don’t make as big an impact, probably because they act more as the oasis and don’t present the desperate circumstances that plague the people in South Ohio. I hope that in the next book, we get to see more of Dani, to flush out who she is, rather than her just being a lifeline. Also, very excited about what will develop between Judith and Dani.
Of course, there are echoes in this book of what history tells us happened in the years building towards the Holocaust but it’s also a what-if, American version. There’s so much more here, secret codes, clandestine agencies, dangerous meetups, and mysticism. But it’s the characters that make you care and maybe at the back of your mind, grow a seed of concern if you live here in the USA. The last third of the book absolutely flew and all I could think of was, when is book 2 coming out? For anyone wondering, although people are hurt badly in the GFS, the violence is not graphically described, probably because this is a YA book. It’s also light on the future tech and focuses more on the people.
ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.