Thalli has fifteen minutes and twenty-three seconds left to live. The toxic gas that will complete her annihilation is invading her bloodstream. But she is not afraid.
Thalli is different than others in The State. She feels things. She asks questions. And in the State, this is not tolerated. The Ten scientists who survived the nuclear war that destroyed the world above believe that emotion was at the core of what went wrong — and they have genetically removed it from the citizens they have since created. Thalli has kept her malformation secret from those who have monitored her for most of her life, but when she receives an ancient piece of music to record as her community’s assigned musician, she can no longer keep her emotions secreted away.
Seen as a threat to the harmony of her Pod, Thalli is taken to the Scientists for immediate annihilation. But before that can happen, Berk — her former Pod mate who is being groomed as a Scientist — steps in and persuades the Scientists to keep Thalli alive as a test subject.
The more time she spends in the Scientist’s Pod, the clearer it becomes that things are not as simple as she was programmed to believe. She hears stories of a Designer — stories that fill her mind with more questions: Who can she trust? What is this emotion called love? And what if she isn’t just an anomaly, but part of a greater design?