October 2012. The Last Free Cat / by Jon Blake
Title: The Last Free Cat
Author: Jon Blake
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Publisher: Albert Whitman
Concepts: Allocation and Distribution, Economic Role of Government, Markets and Competition
Review: When Jade sees the unregistered cat in her garden, she knows she has found something beautiful and dangerous. Jade, a British teenager, lives in a dystopian future in which cats have been privatized. To prevent outbreaks of the deadly virus HN51, also known as cat flu, unregistered cats have been declared illegal and killed en masse. Registered cats are exorbitantly expensive and can be obtained only through the powerful multinational corporation Viafara. Despite the risks, Jade decides to keep the cat, which she names Feela. Before long, Jade, Feela, and Jade's not-quite-friend Kris are on the run from the authorities, trying their hardest to stay alive. The political and economic characteristics of Jade's society are never described outright, but nonetheless the occasional details prove chilling. The Internet is owned and administered by the Viafara corporation and the freeweb is illegal. The Terrorism and Aliens Act gives the government access to all individual's personal information. The police, or Comprot (for “Community Protection”), are brutal and seem to enjoy nearly limitless power over the populace. While the book focuses mainly on cats, it is very clear that cats are only a symbol of the amount of control enacted by the government, which itself seems to be controlled by Viafara.
A compelling read with a likable but naive female protagonist, The Last Free Cat will appeal to fans of the increasingly popular genre of YA dystopian novels. The straightforward writing style and the lack of heavy-handed world building may also interest reluctant readers on the middle school level. While at times bleak and overtly political, this is at its core the coming-of-age tale of a young teen who is forced to become self-aware, self-confident, and able to decide for herself what is right. The anti-authoritarian themes provide an excellent opportunity to discuss issues such as the role of multinational corporations, the appropriateness of government and/or corporate control, and the freedom of information.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children