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Book Review: Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

Tagline: “You can’t change your DNA . . . even when it says you’re a murderer.” 

Blurb: “The Scarlet Letter meets Minority Report in bestselling author Sophie Jordan’s chilling new novel about a teenage girl who is ostracized when her genetic test proves she’s destined to become a murderer.”

What if they developed a test where they could test everyone’s DNA for a gene associated with violence?
What if they decided that everyone was required to take the test?
What if they tested you and you tested positive?

Davy is a musical prodigy at a private school. She has a family that loves her. She has a boyfriend that loves her. And next year, she is probably going to Juliard.

Except Davy has just tested positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTC). So now she has been “uninvited” from her school. Her friends have basically dropped her. And her family doesn’t know what to think of her. But she has never hurt anyone.

“Leaning down, he whispers for my ears alone. “Prove them wrong.” 

She soon finds herself forced to attend school in “the cage” with 5 other HTC carriers, some of whom are obviously very violent. But some of them are not.

As events on the outside world escalate, the rights of those who carry the HTC gene are diminishing. Davy is given one last option: to be entered into a special “rehabilitation” program.

My Thoughts:

This is one of those books that can be read on several levels. It is a fun, entertaining read. But if you want to peel back the layers, there is a lot of thoughtful discussion to be had here. Some of the topics subtly snuck in the midst of this story include: nature vs. nurture, civil rights, abuse of authority, the concept of innocent until proven guilty and there is even some interesting discussion to be had regarding our current prison system and how small crime offenders are often forced to become more hardened criminals when placed in extreme survival situations.

It is interesting to be a part of Davy’s journal. The life she thought she had spirals out of control rather quickly once she is identified as a carrier. She is surprised by her friend’s reactions to the news. And her boyfriend’s reaction was surprising even to me. We get a peak inside Davy’s head as we see her question who she is when faced with a variety of stressful situations that incite interesting responses.

In the cage, Davy meets a group of fellow carriers like herself. Sean, who bears the mark of someone who has in fact committed a violent act (here a tattoo H which will bring to mind the scarlet A). Gil, who seems to mild mannered and out of place. There is an interesting dynamic between Davy and Sean that builds but does not overwhelm the story.

Towards the end of the story there is a jaw dropping moment that puts Davy to the test. Literally, I had to pick my jaw up off of the floor.

Since 9/11 we have been asking ourselves and our policy makers how to balance our country’s principles of civil rights with the idea of national security, Jordan puts that same question to the test in a really unique speculative scenario that entertains while making us think. Jordan also plays around with the notion of the good girls falling in love with the bad boys by introducing a bad boy who may in fact turn out not to be such a bad boy after all. And one of the most effective parts of this book is how it is totally a contemporary setting with just this one little speculative twist: there’s no space ships or apocalypse, just teenagers like the ones living today who have the misfortune of carrying a specific genetic marker.

A good read-alike would be BLACKOUT by Robison Wells and REBOOT by Amy Tintera which have some of the same themes.

Highly recommended. Harper Teen, 2014. ISBN: 978-0-06-223365-3

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