It’s Ty and Colin against the world. Ty has been a Metalhead ever since she can remember, and Colin… hasn’t. Colin and his family moved to Metaltown when his mother’s wife contracted the corn flu. Ty called a safety on Colin, the Bakerstown pansy, meaning anyone messes with Colin, they’re messing with Ty too. Everything is going as well as can be expected, until Ty gets hurt on the job and Lena Hampton leaves her private and protected home to slum it at the Small Parts factory. Now Ty has lost her pride, her job, and could she be losing Colin?
Simmons managed to display the situation in Metaltown with one heartbreaking sentence: “He’d eaten yesterday, but it felt like longer.” The children of Metaltown know what it’s like to be hungry. Right away, we know that these kids are poor. We know there are not too many people looking out for their best interest. We know that they largely have to fend for themselves. The writing in this book, especially the expository writing, was so well done. Without ever stating anything outright, it’s obvious that this book is not a happy one. It’s obvious that this grungy little factory town is filled with misery and pain.
This is Ty’s story at the core. Colin plays a major role, and is the catalyst for a lot of the problems, but it’s not Colin who changes things. It’s Ty. Ty’s injury. Ty getting fired. The comparison between Ty and Lena to show the Hampton’s privilege. It’s Ty who brings everyone together to rescue Colin from food-testing. Ty’s personal and familial history are the reason the Small Parts Charter got what it wanted. Ty may not have personally defeated the Hamptons, and she may not have led the charge, but she was the driving force behind it.
Lena is a troublesome character because she is so entitled, that she can’t even recognize her entitlement. She would like to learn. She wants to know about the war, and why it’s a continual problem. She wants to prove to her father that she’s capable of being a ruthless Hampton to maintain order. She doesn’t know that losing your job due to an injury in Small Parts can kill a person.The more time she spends in Metaltown, the more horrible things she learns about her family’s business practices and human rights violation, but she still clings to the lifestyle those practices support. So she can keep living her expensive lifestyle with her large bedroom and gloves. So she can keep eating food that’s already been tested and so she doesn’t have to work for a living.
Because of all of this, Lena makes quite the statement about privilege and recognizing your own advantages in the real world. Lena could be any of us, especially those of us fortunate enough to read this (let alone have access to the internet to read it). When you’re starving, you don’t have the honor of going to school. You don’t get to learn how to read. You get to learn how to fend for yourself and how to survive. And It’s not that life for people of higher socioeconomic status is without it’s challenges. Lena suffered from some severe emotional and physical abuse, after all, but she has life better than the Metalheads. She always has (safe) food. She has heat and shelter. And she doesn’t have to work for any of it. The people of Metaltown would kill for that.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that I see a lot of growth in Lena. Like I said, she could be anyone born into an advantageous situation. It doesn’t make any of this her fault, and her willingness to give up everything to help the Charter make her more real and easier to identify with. After all, we all want to be the hero. And if reading from Lena’s point of view didn’t feel familiar or make you uncomfortable, you probably weren’t digging deep enough.
This is a brilliant story both about strength when facing oppression and fear. They question when is it worth it to risk everything. The children of Metaltown get to decide when it is important to fight for what you deserve and what you need. Because they have to. Because the adults of this story have decided that children don’t deserve any power. Because they have decided an entire generation is expendable. This is when the kids of Metaltown find out who is important to them and who will stand beside them no matter what. This is when the children of Metaltown have to hope.
- 5/5 Stars
- Ty changes everything in Metaltown
- Lena’s character poses some great question about privilege
- Strong messages about strength and unity against oppression and fear