Plotting the Stars 2: SEAGARDEN, by Michelle A. Barry, Pixel+Ink, Oct. 3, 2023, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 10 and up)
Forced to hide her new-found magic, a girl works to dig up information on the corrupt government in Seagarden, the second book in Michelle A. Barry’s Plotting the Stars series.
Revolution is watered with sweat and tears.
As Myra Hodger begins her second year at the elite Scientific Lunar Academy of Magic, she should be happy. Her days of faking Number Whisperer magic are over, and she has friends she can trust with the secret of her Botan abilities. But that doesn’t mean she’s through pretending to be someone she’s not. Mourning Bernie and the incredible Moongarden they cultivated together, she feels like she’s losing herself just when she found the thing that made her feel whole. She’s given a seed of hope when she runs into a teen Rep in the hallway who looks eerily familiar. But irritable Bernard, controlled by his Rep implant, is nothing like her beloved Bernie.
With the continuing interplanetary food crisis conspiracy, an anonymous tip about a community of free Reps who might be able to help save Bernard, and the hunt for more information about what really happened to the banished Botans, all routes seem to point to Venus, and an exchange program with the Vesuvian Academy of Magical Arts might provide Myra and her friends the cover they need to unearth the answers they seek.
Or it might widen the cracks already forming among them, releasing a flood of consequences that could wash away all they’ve worked so hard to grow. —Synopsis provided by Pixel+Ink
The second book in the Plotting the Stars series, Seagarden blossoms with unexpected twists and heartbreaking revelations, underpinned by climate change warnings and a determination to fight against the status quo.
Seagarden is the sequel to Michelle A. Barry’s fantastic Moongarden. And while Moongarden gave nods to The Secret Garden, Seagarden has moved well past that inspiration.
Seagarden is less about nurturing and growing a garden and more about climate change and pushing back against authority.
Myra is once again at the center of the story. She’s still pretending to have skills that she doesn’t really have. Her Botan magic is on the fritz. And after arriving at with the Vesuvian Academy of Magical Arts, she feels alone. Her best friends are so caught up in their new environment, they don’t have time for Myra.
So, Myra turns to the only person who seems interested. This is where the supporting characters change a bit. They still come in the form of students, a janitor, administrators and a cute little robot. But the friends from Moongarden sort of sputter out on the development front. And a few others feel like one-note props that might potentially play larger roles later on.
Overall, Seagarden is less about characters and more about the overarching themes. The stage is bigger and the stakes are much higher. It’s grander in scope, and it works. It feels like the natural evolution of the series.
Again, these characters feel older than they are presented, and I could easily put this series into the YA sphere. But older middle-graders will enjoy it, too.
Seagarden is STEAM dystopian done well. Barry does a fine job incorporating STEAM throughout — especially music and math — without it feeling like it’s shoehorned in. While it doesn’t have quite the magic as its predecessor, Seagarden is still a book you won’t want to put down. I can’t wait for the next book.
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