Australian YA author AJ Betts is best known for her TV-adapted book Zac and Mia. In Hive she dives into the world of speculative fiction but her focus is still very much on teens and their experience.
Hayley’s whole world is a series of interconnected, hexagonal rooms and the rules her society lives by are the only rules she has ever known. Hayley is a Gardener, her specific job is to look after the bees and their hives. Bees are important for pollinating the plants that keep her enclosed society alive and for their honey. They also provide a handy metaphor for Hayley’s structured world and her place in it. Odd events make Hayley start to question this world. But questioning is seen as a form of madness so she has to hide or try and repress her curiosity, finding allies where she can.
Hayley is an engaging and relatable protagonist and the trials she faces will be familiar ones to a YA readership. Challenges of growing up in a world where rules don’t quite make sense, dealing with the pressure to conform and longstanding friendships put to the test by life changes.
Hive feels a bit like a rerun of Hugh Howey’s Wool series for teens – a human-created world cut off from the outside in which a strictly hierarchical society emerges. The world of Hive, a series of a handful of interconnected rooms with three main worker categories, is smaller than Wool‘s hundred storey silos and easier for younger readers to get their mind around.
While many questions are posed in Hive, few are answered. But the ending opens up a myriad possibilities for those answers in the story’s conclusion Rogue, due in 2019.
This review first appeared in Aurealis #113, Australian science fiction and fantasy magazine, www.aurealis.com.au.
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