MARTians by Blythe Woolston

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Walker Books, 2016. ISBN 9781406341393
(Age: 14+) Recommended. Consumerism. Dystopian fiction. Zoe Zindleman has been abandoned by her mother and the government has shut down her school. She is given the opportunity to start work at ALLMART, where 'your smile is the AllMART welcome mat'. Her house is going to be repossessed and when she meet MORTimmer, he warns her that it is not a smart idea to live in ALLMART's dormitories. Trusting him, she moves into the Warren, a deserted shopping centre where a laundromat becomes her home, shared with the little boy 5er and Timmer. Then her ordeal as an employee of ALLMART begins as she learns the ins and outs of selling in a big store.
This is a grim but totally engrossing story about consumerism gone wild told in the heart wrenching voice of Zoe, an intelligent girl. As her training progresses she realises that there is no future for her as she will always be in debt to AllMART, who charge her enormous prices for uniforms and food. As Zoe battles her way through learning about how to sell, the reader will find many familiar descriptions of different store departments and how they are set up. Equally bleak are the stories of abandoned children, whose parents have left them behind, and the stories of repossessed houses that are pulled apart for their metal, and a government that has abandoned everyone.
However there is one small glimpse of hope that Timmer gives: Look for the ones who need help and spread the good around.
This was an exceptionally thought provoking book. References were made to Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles but don't detract for those who haven't read it, and will make them want to pick it up.
This would make an ideal literature circle book or class novel with the themes of consumerism gone wild, governments who cannot help people whose homes are repossessed, unemployment, and abandoned children making for great discussion points for their relevance for today's society.
Pat Pledger