The Erasure Initiative

Lili Wilkinson

The Erasure Initiative
Allen & Unwin
4 August 2020

The Erasure Initiative

Lili Wilkinson

I wake up, and for a few precious seconds I don’t realise there’s anything wrong. The rumble of tyres on bitumen, and the hiss of air conditioning. The murmur of voices. The smell of air freshener. The cool vibration of glass against my forehead.

A girl wakes up on a self-driving bus. She has no memory of how she got there or who she is. Her nametag reads CECILY. The six other people on the bus are just like her: no memories, only nametags. There’s a screen on each seatback that gives them instructions. A series of tests begin, with simulations projected onto the front window of the bus. The passengers must each choose an outcome; majority wins.

But as the testing progresses, deadly secrets are revealed, and the stakes get higher and higher. Soon Cecily is no longer just fighting for her freedom - she’s fighting for her life.

The acclaimed author of After the Lights Go Out returns with another compelling YA thriller - a timely novel about the intensity and unpredictability of human behaviour under pressure.


A girl wakes up with no knowledge of who she is or what has happened in her past. All she knows is that she is on a driverless bus speeding along a coastline with six other people on board, none of whom look familiar. They each have a name on their chest, but are those really their names, and why are some people in red shirts and some in blue? They are given a thought experiment to which they must respond: the classic Trolley Problem. They must choose between one person dying or many and this is actually happening because they can see people on the road ahead, right where the bus is heading.

It’s a plot with as many twists and turns as the treacherous road the bus is driving along. There is a cast of diverse and all too humanly flawed characters, including our narrator, Cecily, who feels lust for the hot guy on the bus who smells familiar, but is also attracted to the sharp cheek-boned and angry girl with the beautifully decorated prosthetic leg. Tantalising snippets and articles are also interspersed throughout the narrative about a mysterious ‘Blue Fairy’ who has something to do with all these characters.

Lili Wilkinson has followed up her doomsday-prepper novel of two years ago, After the Lights Go Out, with an equally compelling novel that is action-packed but also delivers some real moral dilemmas about good and evil, asking the reader whether people can change their basic character. This pacey thriller will be devoured by readers aged 14+.

Angela Crocombe is the manager of Readings Kids.

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