This is an absolute marvel of a story which completely and utterly engrossed me: I absolutely could not put it down, and read it in one sitting, as I was so invested in both the characters and the plot.
The Middler is set in a dystopian near-future society where people are treated in different ways based on their familial position. The Eldest in a family hold a privileged position: they are listened to, respected, and get rewarded for their position in the family rather than on merit. BUT, when they turn fourteen, they are sent off to Camp to train to take part in the Quiet War, fighting to keep society protected.
Maggie, a middle child, lives inside the Town boundary with her mother, father, eldest brother Jed and younger brother Trig. Being a middler means that she struggles to have her voice heard and her talents recognised, and is allocated many of the household chores.
After a visit to the boundary between the Town and the outside world, she finds herself coming to the attention of a wanderer, Una. Maggie has been brought up to believe that wanderers are ‘dirty, dangerous and deceitful’. Maggie wants to be noticed and, when the opportunity arises, she takes her chance … she decides that she can win recognition by trapping Una and her father and giving them to the town leader, Mayor Anderson. However, Maggie finds herself developing a friendship with Una, something she has been missing in her life …
I loved the portrayal of the friendship between Maggie and Una, from its tentative roots to a deeper building of trust. Can this fledgling friendship overcome the deep-rooted mistrust of the wanderers that has been instilled in Maggie, or will betrayal be inevitable?
As Maggie discovers more about the wanderers, she comes to question how her own society is run. The revelations are perfectly timed as the action becomes more and more intense and the danger increases. This tension is so brilliantly handled – taking place over 10 days – that I could not stop reading as I had to know what happened next and where the plot was leading me.
As well as being is a superbly engrossing story, The Middler, raises opportunities for deep discussion around societal issues including misinformation, abuse of power, corruption and personal choice/morality. I cannot recommend this story highly enough, and will definitely be adding it to my school library.