Yes, I occasionally read YA novels. Maybe one or two a year.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a teacher of young adults; there are certain Young Adult novels that give the reader insight into these fascinating creatures, just as there are certain adult novels that give insight into adults. Or perhaps it’s because a few YA books—just a few—are excellent in their own right.

Naomi Kritzer’s CatNet series meets both criteria. It also has cats! (Well, you probably guessed that.) I just finished the first volume in the series, Catfishing on CatNet, and the library informs me that the second volume, Chaos on CatNet, is “in transit.” It’s been in that condition for several days now, so it’s probably lost somewhere in Wisconsin.

Speaking of Wisconsin, that’s where the bulk of this book takes place. If you want to label the genre more specifically than just YA, it’s a bit of science fiction and a bit of mystery and a bit of adventure, all wrapped in a social network aimed at teens who feel that they are misfits. Naturally one of the big concerns is gender identity, which the author handles matter-of-factly and convincingly. The large majority of the characters—both teen and adult—are female or non-binary, but there’s no sense that the reader needs to be any particular gender. I felt perfectly comfortable with it. A bit of the New York Times review is worth quoting:

…as tender and funny as it is gripping and fast-paced. This book is perfect. From the believable teenage voices to the shockingly effective thriller plot, it swings effortlessly from charming humor to visceral terror, grounding it all in beautiful friendships, budding romance, and radical acceptance.

Oh yes, cats play a small but pivotal role. The deuteragonist is even named Cheshire Cat. (But they aren’t a cat, or even a human. They’re an artificial intelligence. This isn’t a spoiler, as their name is revealed early on as AI.)

Looking forward to Chaos on CatNet as soon as it arrives at the library.

Categories: Books, Cats