CatNet is a social media platform managed by a sentient AI known, at least to our adolescent protagonists, as CheshireCat because of their interest in cat pictures. (CheshireCat uses the singular ‘they’ pronoun.) CheshireCat revealed their identity to some of those adolescents in the first book, Catfishing on CatNet. In many ways, CheshireCat is also an adolescent, and both human and AI must learn how to be best friends and support each other, though one of them is a powerful, virtually unlimited internet entity.
Local writer Naomi Kritzer has won many awards for her CatNet stories, including a Hugo several years ago for the short story ‘Cat Pictures, Please.’ Catfishing on CatNet won a hefty list of awards in 2019, including an Edgar Award, a Minnesota Book Award, and a Lodestar Award. It is not necessary to read the first book in order to follow the second, but I’d recommend it anyway, because it also is pretty wonderful.
Chaos on CatNet is another solid story, with a cast of engaging, confident, diverse adolescents. It also, surprising for a young adult book, has several reliable adults, including a loving polyamorous family. The story explores the power of the internet both to bring people together and, for better or worse, to influence those people’s actions. It takes place in a Minneapolis that, ten years from now, has made some recognizable, optimistic changes following the riots of 2020. We probably should apologize in advance for what happens to the James J. Hill House, though.