Skip to main content




If ever there has been a case of not judging a book by its cover, MARTians by Blythe Woolston would be the perfect example. At first glance, the story seemed like a girl’s search for family in a near-dystopian culture. At its core, though, the book showed a dangerous possibility of what our world has become and can become in the near future. 

MARTians is reminiscent of Woolston’s three previous novels --- BLACK HELICOPTERS, THE FREAK OBSERVER and CATCH AND RELEASE --- primarily because it features the story of a strong-willed girl who is suddenly thrust into an unexpected reality where she is virtually helpless against her circumstances. In MARTians, high schooler Zoë Zindleman is the epitome of a perfect student. She lives in the not-too-distant future America, and one day, her entire life changes for the worse when the government decides to shut down her school and rush her class’ graduation by more than a year in order to balance the national debt. This would be fine with Zoë if the government didn’t decide her future based on her personality and projected behaviors and genetics. She is given the option of working at two humongous department franchises, and ultimately chooses AllMART.

At the same time, Zoë’s AnnaMom informs her that she will be leaving her so she can live on her own and sell their house. Now alone in a world where houses are being abandoned exponentially, Zoë meets Timmer, a fellow employee at AllMART who acts as her guide in the twisted and unnecessarily chaotic world that is AllMART employment. Over the course of the book, Zoë must cope with her decided future, overcome the struggle between going with the flow and finding a voice and find her place in the decaying world around her.

If you enjoy witty dialogue and sardonic pieces about culture, you are sure to love this book just as much as I did.

MARTians could have taken place in the present day and the message still would have been the same, which is exactly what made it so enjoyable to read. I found myself drawing comparisons between the failing housing market, department store obsession and unstable economies in the book and modern society.
Above all else, Zoë struggles to find her individuality when she is one of thousands of employees, not even referred to by her real name. Woolston’s intent of portraying the loss of identity and conformity is successful, because Zoë, much like many people today, becomes just one of a mass of workers who become secondary characters to the product. Both in MARTians and in real life, people tend to forget and marginalize the behind-the-scenes workers because all that “matters” is sales, sales, sales.
If I had to recommend this book to anyone, I would, above all else, recommend it to teenagers. While this book was a hyperbole of consumer culture, it is in many ways representative of how the world is today. This book can teach a vital lesson to teenagers about having a job and oftentimes not having a choice in your employment, and also on how interdependent the job market, economy and government are. If you enjoy witty dialogue and sardonic pieces about culture, you are sure to love this book just as much as I did.

Reviewed by Chris C., Teen Board member on October 15, 2015

by Blythe Woolston

  • Publication Date: August 14, 2018
  • Genres: Family, Youth Fiction
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick
  • ISBN-10: 1536200565
  • ISBN-13: 9781536200560