What starts off as a lighthearted competition to live without modern technology for a year turns into a fight for survival in this unputdownable young adult thriller by New York Times bestselling author Jarrod Shusterman and debut author Sofía Lapuente.
It was never meant to happen this way.
Things were never supposed to get this out of hand.
After a cyberbullying incident at her school goes viral, Luna Iglesias finds herself at the heart of a brewing controversy. When the social media company Limbo—who are also implicated in the scandal—sweeps in with an offer that sounds like an opportunity to turn over a new leaf and receive a scholarship to the college of her dreams, she’s happy to jump on the new trend. It’s called the Retro Challenge, where contestants live without modern technology, wear vintage clothes, party as if the future weren’t already written, and fall in love as if they were living in a movie.
At first, the challenge is fun. But then things get dangerous. Kids start disappearing, including Luna’s friends. There are voices in the woods. Bloodred markings on the trees. And Luna increasingly begins to wonder if all these strange happenings are connected with the Retro Challenge.
Secrets. Lies. Betrayal. The weight of her family on her shoulders. There’s so much on the line for Luna, not to mention she’s falling in love with the last guy she expected. Unless she can figure out the truth behind who’s sabotaging the challenge, the next person to disappear may be Luna herself.
Structuring their unevenly told high-concept thriller around a playlist, Lapuente, a debut author, and Shusterman (Roxy) take on social media usage and Big Tech. To get revenge on blond, popular friend Samantha for shoplifting and scapegoating her, 17-year-old Luna María Valero Iglesias, who's Spanish and Mexican, anonymously posts a video of Samantha drunkenly trashing classmates at their small-town Northern California school. Regret sets in, but not before the video goes viral on high-profile social media site Limbo, after which Samantha attempts suicide. Limbo, facing bad press for the algorithm that promoted the post, holds a contest at the youths' high school: the teen who goes without any technology made after 2000 for an entire school year wins a full-ride scholarship to the college of their choice. The contest, which makes Luna's life feel like something out of one of the glamorous retro movies playing at her mother's indie theater, brings Luna new friends and internet fame. But as contestants begin to vanish, Luna realizes that Limbo's plan may involve more menacing motives. Indistinct dialogue across the quirky cast undercuts thoughtful meditations on capitalism and technology, making for a thinly fleshed out novel with a charmingly vintage vibe. Ages 14–up.