Sarah Fine’s Uncanny is surprisingly insightful as the author delves into the complicated minefield of high school friendships and blended families. Intriguing from the start, the plot hurtles to a conclusion that is unexpectedly disturbing.
High school-aged Cora engages the reader immediately as she struggles with the recent traumatic death of her stepsister Hannah. Worsening matters for Cora are all the questions related to her stepsister’s death. No one else was home besides Cora when Hannah died and Cora is unable to remember any details. Now the police, classmates, and even her stepfather seem to be blaming her. Cliques, peer pressure, manipulation and deception surround Cora, who wonders if she is becoming mentally unstable herself or is deliberately being driven to desperation by those around her.
Cora lives in a futuristic world where AI has been developed well beyond present day. Houses run themselves and tasks are taken care of by programmable lifelike AI “canny” workers. Technologically superior to the cell phone of today, the implanted Cerepin nodule is the communication device in Cora’s world no teen can stand to be without. Cora’s implanted communication device may have recorded events surrounding Hannah’s death — it may have the facts everyone is demanding to know, and the truth Cora herself is too terrified to face.
Uncanny is written within a teenage culture where relationships are bound by social order. The death of her stepsister is from Cora’s point of view throughout and the reader’s understanding and empathy for Cora grow as she shares her perspective of this life-altering event. Fine unflinchingly examines, through Cora’s eyes, how an individual’s past experiences can inform their present. By placing the characters in a futuristic venue, Fine concurrently allows the reader to consider the possible moral dilemmas that could result from the intimate interactions between humans and programmable, lifelike AI cannies.
Fine has written a book that challenges the reader to look at Cora’s experiences and examine if they themselves have been the victims of bullying by peers or even their own family members. It serves as a warning to anyone recognizing they may have been the perpetrator to call into question their own actions. Uncanny is an uncomfortably fascinating read that examines what actions someone is willing to take when emotions overtake reason.