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Quick Pick: The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones

Deadly Ticks? Pop Stars? Post-Pandemic Peril? Yes, Please! The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones

By Hannah Carmack, Creative Content Coordinator 

The Salt Line book cover

If you look through STEM Read’s official selections, you can see that we’re suckers for books with gnarly diseases. Louis Sachar’s Fuzzy Mud, Lex Thomas’ Quarantine, and The Maze Runner are some of our favorites.

If you also love a good pandemic story, then Holly Goddard Jones’ The Salt Line is right up your alley. The novel takes place in a dystopian future where a tick-borne diseasehas ravaged the United States. The salt line protects people from the ticks that carry the deadly virus, but people who live within the salt line boarder have limited freedom.

In the first few pages, you’re introduced to a group of rich thrill-seekers who are traveling out past the salt line and intentionally putting themselves at risk for tick bites. Meanwhile, poor populations are forced to suffer from the same tick-borne disease against their will.

When we heard about The Salt Line, we knew it would be a great book for introducing students to the concepts of viruses and pandemic events. We were excited to find that the book explores ethics and mathematics as well.

The book’s examination of health care rationing would be a great way to discuss our current health care crisis and the ethics of allowing curable diseases to plague populations in third-world countries.

The mathematics aspect comes into play with Wes Feingold, a successful venture capitalist whose claim to fame is an app called Pocketz™. The app allows users to see what their friends are purchasing and how much they spent on it.

Halfway through the book, the thrill-seekers discover that a cure for the world’s tick-borne disease has been produced. However, the cure comes with serious side effects, including infertility, heightened chance of cancer, as well as loss of bone density. Characters are forced to weigh whether or not being tick free is worth the risk. Students can attack this conflict in a number of ways, whether it be a discussion or looking at famous real world cases of  medications which were later pulled due to serious adverse health effects.

Overall, The Salt Line is another great young adult novel that will please fans of dystopian fiction, while also falling in line with a number of next generation science and common core standards.