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Pills and Starships


Millet’s first YA novel explores a world devastated by global warming, and two teenagers determined to survive against all odds.

$11.95 $8.96

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What people are saying…

Winner of the 2015 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People

Named a 2015 Green Earth Honor Book by the Nature Generation

Pills and Starships, the first young adult novel by Lydia Millet, offers one thrillingly scary scenario . . . There is much here to enjoy.”
Washington Post

Named a Best Book of 2014 by Teaching for Change

One of The Independent‘s Best Books for Children This Christmas

“A deep read, but fast; it lingers in your mind long after it’s been read.”
New York Journal of Books

“In the remaining wilderness of the Big Island, though, lurk people and terrain that may or may not spell constructive revolution and optimism for Sam, Nat and the planet’s leftovers. Risk-takers both, they have decisions to make.”
Center for Fiction, Junior edition

“A YA novel that runs counter to nearly every YA trend . . . You’ll laugh—until you realize it’s too late, and the world has crumbled around you.”
Brazos Bookstore, Ben’s Year in Books roundup

Named a “Book that Buzzed at ALA” by Library Journal‘s Barbara Hoffert

One of The Airship/Black Balloon Publishing’s 50 Must-Reads for Summer!

One of Missoulian/Corridor‘s Summer Reading Guide picks!

“Millet’s dense novel has more in common with philosophy than with fantasy . . . Millet, never a writer to settle into predictable patterns, manages to find beauty in ugly places . . . this is the best thing about Millet’s work: it makes you notice the small details of the natural world, makes you recognize those details as holy.”
The Rumpus

“Lydia Millet offers a brilliant dystopian novel that eclipses all others written for Young Adults with this beautifully written, dark but ultimately hopeful tale.”
The Buffalo News

“If your summer goal is to start taking better care of the environment (a goal inspired, perhaps, by a trip to one of New York’s trash-laden beaches), grab a book that explores a world devastated by global warming: Pills and Starships by Lydia Millet.”
The Airship/Black Balloon Publishing, 50 Must-Reads for Summer

“Dark apocalyptic reading at its best . . . vivid, moving saga that will attract mature teen fans of Divergent, Hunger Games, and similar apocalyptic survival stories.”
—Midwest Book Review

“The details are terrific . . . and as the tension mounts it becomes a real page turner.”
The Independent (UK)

“I’m the first to admit that dystopia isn’t usually for me, but this one got right under my skin.”
The School Librarian

Included in Teen Librarian Toolbox’s list of forthcoming CliFi (climate fiction) titles

“[A] rare gem of a book.”
Paperboat Sails

“By no means is [dystopia] composed of only novice authors. We can’t wait for Pulitzer Prize-nominated Lydia Millet’s upcoming novel, Pills and Starships, set in a world where babies are illegal.”

“Killer first lines are like gold dust and this is a doozy: There was a time, not long ago, when it was illegal to kill people.

Pills and Starships offers a vision of the future as frightful as it is prescient.”
Mandatory, included in 13 Dystopian Worlds from Fiction We’d Rather Live in Than This One

“Millet presents environmental issues she’s dealt with before, but embeds them in engaging story, and sympathetic characters, lively voice, and a little, satisfying ‘ick.'”
Tuscon Weekly

“We recommend checking out this novel—which manages to be both frightening and hopeful—whether you’re young or old.”
Endangered Earth Online

“Gripping . . . how the future is likely to be for our younger generation if the current situation of environmental degradation is allowed to continue.”
Greener Ideal

“In this too-possible dystopia, global warming has changed weather patterns, babies are now illegal, and new diseases mutating weekly make face-to-face contact rare . . . I loved the book.”
Books YA Love

“Millet’s prose is strong, her neologisms are fun, and the story caught me right up.”
M. Fenn

“An engaging epistolary novel that’s part science fiction and part cautionary tale.”
Joe Follansbee

“Millet’s YA debut is a gem: unnerving and luminous in equal measures. . . . Pitch-perfect . . . This is a smart, soulful book.”
The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

“This is a fantastic futuristic dystopian novel that every teen and adult should read!”
Jenn’s Review Blog

“Lydia Millet has constructed a landscape of horror against a typically beautiful backdrop, making the Huxley-esque society all the more disturbing . . . Sci fi readers looking for a new twist on classic themes are sure to enjoy this new novel.”
Write All the Words!

“A good, worthy book . . . with a memorable voice and an important message.”
Christopher East

“If you want to think, and you want to know what it truly would be like living in a realistic dystopian society, read this novel.”
With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

“Wow. Just wow . . . If you like post-apocalyptic, dystopian, or just beautiful writing, check this book out. It will blow your mind.”
Cherry Blossoms & Maple Syrup

“A dystopian novel that paints a horrifying realistic future by exploiting the truths of today.”
Becoming Books

Pills and Starships feels very much like the spirit of our time.”
Online Eccentric Librarian

“Nat and Sam were both characters that were a joy to read. . . . Can be enjoyed by people of all ages.”
Twin Spin

“This is not a slow book and is very hard to put down.”
Pub Writes

“Fascinating and thought provoking! Pills and Starships is a chilling look at an ecologically damaged future where big business and the government have not only seized control of the surviving population through drugs, but have taken charge of death itself. Lydia Millet has raised questions that will resonate with readers for years to come.”
—Joelle Charbonneau, author of The Testing

“A beautiful glimpse of a dark and outrageous future—utterly confident and terrifying and exciting for readers of any age. You’ll read it with the lights on and then you’ll turn them off because you’re wasting electricity.”
—Adam Rex, author of The True Meaning of Smekday

Praise for Lydia Millet:

“There’s a marvelous musicality to Millet’s prose; she’s a writer who tackles human emotions with scientific precision and an artist’s voice.”
Star Tribune

“One of the most acclaimed novelists of her generation.”
Los Angeles Times

“[Millet’s] writing is always flawlessly beautiful, reaching for an experience that precedes language itself.”

“Millet [is] a writer of encompassing empathy and imaginative lyricism and a satirist of great wit and heart.”

“Millet’s prose displays the exceedingly rare combination of philosophical introspection with poetic grace and flourish.”
Daily Beast

“A dazzling prose stylist.”
Publishers Weekly


Interest level: 9–up | Grade level: HS–Adult | Lexile Level: 920L | Guided Reading Level/F&P: Z+

Part of Akashic’s Black Sheep YA imprint.

In this richly imagined dystopic future brought by global warming, seventeen-year-old Nat and her hacker brother Sam have come by ship to the Big Island of Hawaii for their parents’ Final Week. The few Americans who still live well also live long—so long that older adults bow out not by natural means but by buying death contracts from the corporates who now run the disintegrating society by keeping the people happy through a constant diet of “pharma.” Nat’s family is spending their pharma-guided last week at a luxury resort complex called the Twilight Island Acropolis.

Deeply conflicted about her parents’ decision, Nat spends her time keeping a record of everything her family does in the company-supplied diary that came in the hotel’s care package. While Nat attempts to come to terms with her impending parentless future, Sam begins to discover cracks in the corporates’ agenda and eventually rebels against the company his parents have hired to handle their last days. Nat has to choose a side. Does she let her parents go gently into that good night, or does she turn against the system and try to break them out?

But the deck is stacked against Nat and Sam: in this oppressive environment, water and food are scarce, mass human migrations are constant, and new babies are illegal. As the week nears its end, Nat rushes to protect herself and her younger brother from the corporates while also forging a path toward a future that offers the hope of redemption for humanity. This page-turning first YA novel by critically acclaimed author Lydia Millet is stylish and dark and yet deeply hopeful, bringing Millet’s characteristic humor and style to a new generation of young readers.

Listen to an interview with Lydia Millet at NPR Weekend Edition; and click here to listen to a taped excerpt of Pills and Starships read by Lydia Millet as part of Arizona Public Media’s “Sound Fiction” series.

Click here to read a post by Lydia Millet on young adult novels at Locus Magazine.

Read interviews with Lydia Millet at About.com and If List.

Read an excerpt at WIRED Magazine.


Book Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Published: 6/3/14
  • IBSN: 9781617752766
  • e-IBSN: 9781617752841
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • IBSN: 9781617752759


LYDIA MILLET is the author of seven novels for adults as well as a story collection called Love in Infant Monkeys (2009), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her first book for middle-grade readers, The Fires Beneath the Sea, was one of Kirkus’ Best Children’s Books of 2011, as well as a Junior Library Guild selection. Millet works as an editor and writer at a nonprofit in Tucson, Arizona, where she lives with her two young children. Pills and Starships is her latest novel.

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