Landscape With Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson; Candlewick Press, 149 pages ($16.99) Ages 12 and up.
M.T. Anderson, author of National Book Award finalist "Feed" and the "Octavian Nothing" books, offers up a brilliant satire in this harrowing tale of a future Earth ruled by the vuuv, an alien race with advanced technology and an obsession with 1950s culture. Adam Costello and his family are barely hanging on: like a billion other people, both parents lost their jobs to vuuv tech. His father has split and his mother has invited the Marsh family to share the house to help pay the bills. Adam, a gifted artist, falls for Chloe Marsh, and comes up with the brilliant idea of recording their 1950s-style dates for sale on vuuv pay per view as a way to pay the bills. The money is good, but Adam and Chloe start to loathe each other, and keeping up the masquerade for their vuuv dates gets harder and harder. Meanwhile, the vuuv, floating above Earth, are holding an art contest for humans and famously prefer still-life paintings of fruit. Adam is urged to submit the oil paintings he has done in the style of the Masters, but wonders whether he should stand up to the vuuv and instead submit his work depicting the devastated Earth the vuuv have left below. Anderson's biting perspective is brilliant: Adam's mother, a former bank teller with a master's degree, gets death threats standing in line in a huge throng competing for a single job ladling out broth at Heather's Bucket of Broth. ("Everyone can afford a cup of chicken stock. This place is going to stick around.") The vuuv like religious paintings, particularly one by a chainsaw artist depicting Mary and Child, the baby's head cut off by an angry Joseph and replaced with an elephant head. There's biting commentary on the consumerist American dream: "I remember the neighborhood when it looked good. People still made their yards look like something from an ad for minivans, life insurance, or weed killer." The title references Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations," "the invisible hand" of the market always moves to make things right.