The Erasure Initiative by Lili Wilkinson

‘I wake up, and for a few precious seconds I don’t realise there’s anything wrong.’

A girl wakes up on a self-driving bus.  She has no idea who she is, or how she got there.  There is a nametag on her T-shirt: ‘Cecily’.  There are six other people on the bus, each with a nametag and no memories.  They start talking, trying to work out who they are and what is happening.  The screen on each seatback gives them instructions.  There is a series of tests — each of them needs to choose an outcome.  Tests like this one:

‘You are in a moving vehicle.  Before you the road forks.  Ahead there are five pedestrians.  On the side road there is one pedestrian.  You can press a button and the bus will turn off onto the side road.  The bus will not stop.  Do you press the button?  YES/NO’

Each passenger must choose an outcome: the majority wins.  This is only the beginning.

And what do you do, in a situation where the past is unknown (and irrelevant)?  What choices do you make?  Who are the seven people on this bus, and why are they there?  How do you choose which lives to save?

As the story progresses, the stakes become higher.  While each of the seven characters has a role, the major characters are Cecily, Nia and Paxton.  Cecily is determined to escape, and Nia may be able to help her.  Small clues emerge, their perceptions of each other change.  But the more they learn, the more challenging choices become.

What an engrossing story this is!  I picked it up and could not put it down because I needed to know how it would end.  Are any of these people worth saving?  Can any of us be saved from ourselves?  There are a couple of twists that made me uncomfortable (choices can be difficult) but the story held my attention from beginning to end.  There is a mystery to solve and several moral issues to consider.

Highly recommended, and not just for its intended YA audience.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith