The Golden Child



288 pages | Hardback/ebook/audiobook

Author Veronica Roth

Publisher Hodder & Stoughton

When you’ve made your name as an author who likes to dabble in the odd dystopia – as Veronica Roth has done with her Divergent and Carve The Mark series – it must be hard to keep thinking up new evil regimes or totalitari­an government­s without things becoming stale. This novel certainly feels too familiar on first glance, set as it is in a world in which citizens receive points for good behaviour – much as Black Mirror explored in the episode “Nosedive”, which itself riffed on the real-life social credit system in China.

Poster Girl does throw one welcome spanner in the works, however: the evil points-awarding government (The Delegation) have already been overthrown by a nicer one (The Triumverat­e). Hurrah! But are they really nicer? For starters, they’ve locked away anyone who used to work for The Delegation – which includes teenager Sonya, who once appeared on a poster promoting the old regime.

And so, when she’s given the chance to earn her freedom by finding a missing child, she pursues it doggedly. A novel that begins with a fairly convention­al Orwellian theme thereby morphs into an extremely satisfying and chewy detective noir, as Sonya’s sprawling investigat­ion leads her into the path of everyone from anti-technology terrorists to Alexander, the traitorous brother of the man she was once supposed to marry.

Roth is a master not only at solid world-building, but also at drip-feeding just enough informatio­n to hide the story’s end while still making the guesswork jolly good fun. And as an author who’s already had her work adapted for the big screen, it’s probably no coincidenc­e that Poster Girl all but screams “Make me into a Netflix miniseries!”

On the page alone, Poster Girl is still a classy, pleasingly self-contained mystery that scores all the right points. Jayne Nelson

To help her get into Sonya’s head, Veronica Roth left social media for six months, from October 2020 to May 2021.

Morphs into an extremely satisfying detective noir

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