Cleo Porter and the Body Electric

Author: Jake Burt

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Release Date: October 6/20

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you to Edelweiss + and the publisher for a digital eARC of this book.

When I first stumbled across my first Jake Burt book (his first book) Greetings From Witness Protection, I knew I had found another author I would be sharing with kids. Why? He GETS middle-grade kids – their humour, what topics and issues THEY want to learn about and how they interact with one another. Ever since reading that first book, I eagerly await and look for his new releases. When he first shared on Twitter that he was writing a sci-fi book talking about the human body, I was EXCITED because I love all things anatomy and physiology.

Mr. Burt wrote this story pre-pandemic, which is another reason this story is relevant. Eerily close to home, Mr. Burt creates a world where there are similarities that we are experiencing today – staying at home due to a pandemic, having items delivered, and young people taught virtually in the safety of their home. 

Set in the future, Cleo Porter and her parents, like the rest of the world, lives indoors. No one goes out, and no one comes in due to a strain of the flu that nearly wiped out the entire human population. Everything they need gets delivered to their portal via drones. Cleo hopes to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a surgeon and studies virtually with her instructor Mrs. VAIN (Virtual Adaptive Instructional Network). Cleo’s life is busy preparing for exams until the delivery of life-saving medicine comes through their portal. The problem is, Miriam Wendemore-Adisa does not live there. Right person, wrong address, and Cleo’s parents preoccupied with their work leave the issue with Cleo thinking it will be a quick fix, only it’s not.

The ordering system does not recognize the mistake, and now Cleo has to decide what to do next. Cleo believes her only option is to deliver the medicine herself. Cleo and readers discover the world beyond the portal. Cleo ventures out beyond the confines of her apartment, into the intricacies of the building and outside. As she figures out how to find Miriam Wendemore-Adisa’s portal, Cleo compares the different components of the building to the various human body systems that she is studying. 

Despite all of Cleo’s good intentions to deliver the medicine, she finds herself outside the building and at the mercy of the environment. Only then does she learn that people exist on the outside when she finds Angie, an older woman and a young girl named Paige. Both become her teacher in other ways and help her eventually get back inside. 

Readers will relate to being inside, and what use to be everyday activities such as playing outside and going shopping now look very different. There are bigger takeaways to this story; how Cleo gains confidence and decides how compassion and empathy will guide her rather than rules and regulations, how the confines of a room are not what is best for everyone and how we look after or don’t look after everyone in a crisis. The lesson of helping out others and doing the right thing is a timely reminder when younger people get bombarded with many adults who are struggling with this during the pandemic.  

I am not surprised that I have another book of Mr. Burt’s to recommend for teaching colleagues and readers of middle-grade books and look forward to his fifth book.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Greetings from Witness Protection!, The Right Hook of Devin Velma, and The Tornado