Q-I-99, aka ‘Quinn,’ lives in a scrap metal sanctuary with other rogue droids. While some use violence to make their voices heard, demanding equal rights for AI enhanced robots, Quinn just wants a moment on stage with his violin to show the humans that androids like him have more to offer than their processing power.
Tyri and Quinn’s worlds collide when they’re accepted by the Baldur Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. As the rift between robots and humans deepens, Tyri and Quinn’s love of music draws them closer together, forcing Tyri to question where her loyalties lie and Quinn to question his place in the world. With the city on the brink of civil war, will Tyri’s and Quinn’s passion for music be enough to hold them together while everything else crumbles down around them, or will the truth of who they are tear them apart?
YA SF novel I HEART ROBOT is getting a relaunch, and I had the opportunity to read an arc. It’s been a while since I’ve indulged in some young adult work, as I’ve gone through a bit of a break-up with the genre, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this.
It’s a quick, engaging read, and main character Tyri is totally relatable as a teen finding her place in the world and pulling against parantal restraints. Enter Quinn, an android originally created for human pleasure (and abused by his previous owners, which adds an extra level of poignancy to his desire to be like humans), and his struggle to become more human while still accepting that he will never be “living” is beautifully captured. The two characters’ interaction and relationship could have been built up a little more for me, but individually their storylines worked, weaving together in a satisfying way. For all the setting is a near-future fictional Scandinavian country – a future populated by androids and service bots who work alongside humans but have no human rights – it’s enough like our own time to easily slip into without extensive info-dumps to guide the reader.
Without giving too much of the plot away, the signs for the reveals and wrap-ups are all in place, and nothing feels like it comes out of left-field. There were sections where the story felt a little rushed to me, or where scenes felt glossed over, but this wasn’t too much of an issue as I expect a faster pace for teen reads. For all that the audience is young, the story doesn’t pander to them with black and white, with moral absolutes, and the book will spark some very interesting classroom discussions on the nature of terrorism, freedom-fighting, human rights, and when we decide someone has those rights.
Van Rooyen has a background in music, and her two protagonists are both violinists competing for a solo spot in a junior orchestra. Her love of music infects the narrative and colours the way her protags see the world, which is a lovely touch.
I HEART ROBOT reminds me somewhat of the TV series HUMANS, so if you enjoyed that and are looking for something suitable for a younger audience, this is a perfect choice. Recommended for 13 +.
About the author: Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland where she finds the heavy metal soothing and the cold, dark forests inspiring. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When she grows up, she wants to be an elf – until then, she spends her time (when not writing) climbing, buying far too many books, and entertaining her shiba inu, Lego.