What I’d Pay: $8
To sum it up: In the near future, a gene found in convicted murderers is used to identify future murderers and separate them from society.
The premise of this book was intriguing, but ultimately I was disappointed in the somewhat juvenile treatment of serious issues.
First of all, there was a definite lack of world-building in this YA book and that kind of ruined it for me. The setting is not even very different from modern society, but while I can believe the science behind everything (i.e. the ability identify a gene associated with violent behavior), I didn’t believe the societal reactions in the book. When teens are found to have this gene, they are immediately separated from the rest of their peers and treated like they are already criminals. But, there is no justification given for using this type of genetic information to completely ostracize people from society. For these actions to be believable, I needed more justification and explanation behind why the society did this – like evidence for decreased crime rates or if these drastic measures made any difference at all in violent crime. I didn’t buy it and so that kind of made everything else seem silly. Contributing to the un-believability of the setting was that there was no explanation for why the crime was so far out of control in the first place. The book refers to “losing” entire cities to crime. I’m still not even sure what that means – that these cities were in chaos or completely out of government control? It was never explained.
The reactions of the characters were a bit melodramatic and ridiculously cruel. For instance, the main character’s best friend sets her up to be humiliated and convicted of a crime for no apparent reason at all. Then, her own mother immediately acts terrified of her own daughter when they find the gene, even though the main character is a goody-too-shoes and hasn’t actually done anything violent or suspicious her entire life. Also, while the injustice of the situation was well-portrayed and left me feeling angry and frustrated for the main character at the betrayal of her friends and family, I was frequently annoyed by the main character’s pity party for herself. She was a push-over for most of the book, just letting crappy things happen to her and then getting sad. It wasn’t until about 3/4 of the way through the book that she finally grew up a little and tried to deal with her situation.
Ultimately, the biggest problem for me with this book was the juvenile treatment of what is something that could potentially happen in the future: discrimination based on genetics. While the particular “kill” gene that is the focus of this book is not something I can envision being identified in the future with genetics, there is plenty of other genetic information that could be used to the detriment of people (i.e. making it difficult to get certain jobs or health insurance, etc.). This is the first in a series and a lot is left up in the air at the end of this book. I won’t be picking up the next installment, though I’ll admit there is some good action in this book and it raises some interesting questions.
Bottomline: I imagine a lot of people will probably like this YA dystopian book, and it does have some redeeming qualities in the action during the second part of the book (hence the $8 rating), but I was too annoyed at the unconvincing science and society underlying the entire premise to be interested in reading the next installment. For me, it was a great idea that fell a little flat and came across as juvenile. I got this from the library after a month or so wait.