by Sophie Jordan
HarperTeen, $17.99 hardcover, ISBN-10 0062233653, January 2014
When Davy Hamilton’s tests come back positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS)-aka the kill gene-she loses everything. Her boyfriend ditches her, her parents are scared of her, and she can forget about her bright future at Juilliard. Davy doesn’t feel any different, but genes don’t lie. One day she will kill someone. Only Sean, a fellow HTS carrier, can relate to her new life. Davy wants to trust him; maybe he’s not as dangerous as he seems. Or maybe Davy is just as deadly.
Davy lives in a not-so-far future in which science has isolated a gene that predisposes its carriers to violent behavior. The government responds by instituting mandatory testing for the gene, ostracizing carriers and branding them with a neck tattoo if they so much as throw a punch. When testing reveals Davy carries the gene, she’s kicked out of her private school and sent to class in a locked chain-link cage at a public high school in Keller, TX. Most of her fellow carriers threaten her and the class’s minder tries to molest her, but Davy finds a friend in a geeky boy in the small group and a protector in Sean, the story’s requisite smoldering bad boy/love interest. When hostility toward HTS carriers escalates to concentration-camp level, Davy must make tough choices if she’s going to keep herself and her friends alive.
While the plot poses some tough moral questions, don’t expect too much proselytizing here. Jordan comes from a romance genre background, so an exciting plot and sexy-yet-unattainable hero are of course the main concerns here. Still, the societal panic over the HTS gene rings true. I think knowing a next door neighbor or coworker carries a gene that predisposes him/her to become a killer would make many people jittery, and when enough jittery people get together, mob mentality happens. The idea that the presence of the gene would override parental rights to an innocent minor may be a wee bit far-fetched, but in an interesting Fahrenheit 451 way. For the reader who’s less concerned with dissecting questions of social behavior, though, Jordan packs plenty of drama, excitement, and sexual tension into an intriguing package that will have readers ready for the second volume in a planned two-book series.
Recommend to: Thriller readers, fans of Jordan’s Firelight series
To buy or not to buy: A great choice for YA collections