At the end of All Rights Reserved, Speth and her friends freed the city of Vermaine from Silas Rog and his oppressive litigation. But now, with the Wi-Fi untethered, the citizens of her city are looking to Speth to lead them. Just as Speth never intended to lead a rebellion of Silents, she has no idea how to begin putting Vermaine back to rights. All she wants to do is break out of the dome and track down her parents, who were sold into indentured servitude years before. Leaving the care of the city in the hands of her friend and mentor, Kel, Speth and a few friends embark on a journey to explore the rest of their world and spread the cause of freedom.
Warnings: descriptions of torture, drugging, slavery, mention of sexual assault (implied) from first book
Access Restricted continues the story of Speth and the people of Portland, who after the WiFI going down at the end of the previous book, have freedom but still problems as to how to run the city’s machines (including the ones that prepare their food) amidst a shutdown. Speth and her friends want to take this opportunity to free their parents from Indenture, but getting there is half the journey. The world’s most impulsive and spontaneous road trip takes them through the country they didn’t know much about, through domes with slightly different lives but the same kind of oppression, to the farms where tens of thousands of people are being kept in legalized slavery. As they go, they see hints of the past, but they don’t really get answers until they find an ally so that they can try to beat the system at its own game.
On this journey are Speth, Margot and her little sister, Henri, Sera and Norflo. To say they were unprepared for the long journey is an understatement. Starting from having no geographical knowledge, to no clue of the system that Affluents use (they use Silas Rog’s SquelchMobile for their daring road trip), and are basically making up destinations as they go. The more they learn, the more impossible it seems to bring everything down. But also the more they see in the other cities, the more we realize how much the Silent movement has spread. The journey also works to rebuild their relationships, from past hurts and betrayals, and utilizing their freedom to speak to make amends. It brings another facet of freedom of speech we don’t consider – not just the right to speak, but the liberty to express ourselves, our feelings to bridge connections with people.
Much of what happens in the later stages of the book can’t be discussed here as it would be a big spoiler as to the nature of the world. Succinctly, all I can say it directly challenges the root of such a system – unfettered capitalism that allows the oppressed to stay down, the idea that having billionaires in a world where people are dying due to lack of basic needs is normal (side eyeing some top CEOs for this one), and complying with an unjust system because it doesn’t harm you – it particularly takes recent contemporary examples (at one point a character even says ‘liberal fantasy’) and folds it into the narrative, advocating for a kinder, more socialist world.
Maybe the only parts that take it from being perfect are the conveniences that the group encounter in their quest. Considering the insurmountable odds, it felt things were just happening as per plot convenience. They are hungry? The one delivery truck they stop happens to have food! They are breaking into a real estate agency? The only bystanders happen to be Silents! Not that it was a smooth journey for them – they have their fair share of loss, and tough decisions to make. The ending is won through hard work, sharp wits, and some helpful allies.
Overall, an apt sequel to All Rights Reserved, and a book that drives home its point well.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Harlequin Teen, via Edelweiss.
Is it diverse?
The main character, Speth, and her family are Latinx, as are two major secondary characters. Margot is mentioned to be of Asian origin. The major themes are institutional racism, class divide and slavery.
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