Pills and Starships: A Novel

Pills and Starships

Winner of the 2015 Paterson Prize
for Books for Young People

Named a 2015 Green Earth Honor
Book by the Nature Generation

Named a Best Book of 2014
by Teaching for Change


In this richly imagined dystopic future brought by global warming, seventeen-year-old Nat and her hacker brother Sam have come by ship to the Big Island of Hawaii for their parents’ Final Week. The few Americans who still live well also live long—so long that older adults bow out not by natural means but by buying death contracts from the corporates who now run the disintegrating society by keeping the people happy through a constant diet of “pharma.” Nat’s family is spending their pharma-guided last week at a luxury resort complex called the Twilight Island Acropolis.

Deeply conflicted about her parents’ decision, Nat spends her time keeping a record of everything her family does in the company-supplied diary that came in the hotel’s care package. While Nat attempts to come to terms with her impending parentless future, Sam begins to discover cracks in the corporates’ agenda and eventually rebels against the company his parents have hired to handle their last days. Nat has to choose a side. Does she let her parents go gently into that good night, or does she turn against the system and try to break them out?

But the deck is stacked against Nat and Sam: in this oppressive environment, water and food are scarce, mass human migrations are constant, and new babies are illegal. As the week nears its end, Nat rushes to protect herself and her younger brother from the corporates while also forging a path toward a future that offers the hope of redemption for humanity.


Praise and Reviews

“A beautiful glimpse of a dark and outrageous future.”
–Adam Rex

Pills and Starships, the first young adult novel by Lydia Millet, offers one thrillingly scary scenario…There is much here to enjoy.”
–Washington Post

“A deep read, but fast; it lingers in your mind long after it’s been read.”
–New York Journal of Books

“In the remaining wilderness of the Big Island, though, lurk people and terrain that may or may not spell constructive revolution and optimism for Sam, Nat and the planet’s leftovers. Risk-takers both, they have decisions to make.”
–Center for Fiction, Junior edition

“A YA novel that runs counter to nearly every YA trend . . . You’ll laugh—until you realize it’s too late, and the world has crumbled around you.”
–Brazos Bookstore, Ben’s Year in Books roundup

“I’m the first to admit that dystopia isn’t usually for me, but this one got right under my skin.”
–The School Librarian