Reaper, by Becca C. Smith, is the second book in a continuing series chronicling the adventures of teenager Chelsan Durée. In Smith’s first book, Riser, we met average teenager Chelsan who has the not-so-average ability to control dead things. Chelsan soon found herself the target of a corrupt government, where she had to save herself and her friends from their evil clutches. The events of Reaper take place directly after those of Riser. Just as Chelsan thinks she is going to settle back into school and have time with her boyfriend Ryan, she is once again targeted for her powers. This time Chelsan doesn’t know who is a friend and who is an enemy while she once again embarks on a quest to save the world from a massive threat.
In the futuristic world Chelsan lives in nearly everyone takes Age-Pro, an anti-aging drug that allows people to live forever. While on the surface staying young and beautiful sounds like a utopia, there are serious implications to this ageless hedonism. Though people can stay of child-bearing age for an eternity, they cannot use the drug while pregnant, creating a conundrum that is solved by the use of surrogates and the unsavory term “baby-centers.” Though religion has largely died out those that still are believers don’t appreciate the concept of immortality and not moving on to the afterlife. And of course the biggest problem of them all is overpopulation. What do you do when no one dies but they continue to procreate? All of these questions serve as the backdrop to Chelsan’s adventures in the year 2320 on planet Earth.
As Chelsan is recovering from the events of Riser, her mind is invaded via astral projection by a seven-year old girl named Elisha. Elisha, it seems, is trapped in one of Chelsan’s grandfather’s IQ farms and is scheduled for termination. Chelsan is eager to help since she has a very unfavorable view of the IQ farms, a place where children are kept in preadolescence forever and forced into a kind of mental slavery. The difficulty is that Chelsan’s grandfather is the Vice-President of Population Control, the most powerful position in the world, and he has no love for Chelsan. In fact he’d be happy to see her dead. Nonetheless, Chelsan prepares herself to head back into the lion’s den to save the doomed Elisha.
With the help of her loyal group of friends Nancy, Bill, Ryan, and Jason, she embarks on a mission that turns out to be filled with duplicity and horror. It doesn’t take long for things to go wrong and Chelsan and her friends are once again thrust into one perilous situation after another. This time not everything is what it seems and Chelsan does not know who she can trust. It turns out that Elisha belongs to a Christian Coalition town called Havenville, and Chelsan is in unfamiliar territory amongst the townspeople who don’t take Age-Pro. The battle-lines are unclear as Chelsan must figure out who she can trust before time runs out on her, her friends, and the rest of the world.
Reaper is quite a page-turner filled with unexpected twists and turns. Though the book is aimed at teens the sci-fi concepts are solid and thought provoking. As an adult reader, I find some of the dialog between the teens a bit cringe inducing, but the storyline makes up for all of that. At times I found myself not really caring about what whether or not Chelsan’s boyfriend was mad at her or not, but then their relationship was woven into the heart of the story, making their romantic quandaries relevant. The strength of Reaper, as well as its predecessor Riser, is that the settings and concepts would fit into any sci-fi story. The teen storyline is then placed on top of that making it a good read for any sci-fi fan.