Thursday, November 21, 2013

Book Review: ENHANCED by Courtney Farrell

 ENHANCED, By Courtney Farrell

Published by Crescent Moon Press, August 2013

BLURB (from Goodreads):

Sixteen-year-old Michelle is a product of the Institute's eugenics program, where people are bred like livestock. One doctor decides which kids get to grow up, and which disappear. Only Culls walk into the slum outside Institute walls, and they never come back.

Michelle has survived every purge, and she's about to win a luxurious life as a breeder. Then the doctor banishes her brother Seth and her boyfriend Brian, and she risks everything to find them in the cutthroat slum. She's in trouble until handsome Dillon stakes a claim to her. Michelle is mortified, because Norms are practically animals. But the doctor is using the missing boys in a twisted plan and she needs Dillon's help to stop him.

Michelle and her friends must find Seth and Brian, but a plague is spreading, the doctor is after her and Dillon isn't thrilled to help her find her lost boyfriend.

I received an ebook copy of this YA dystopian fiction in exchange for my honest review.

In this dystopian post-War future, people have been divided into distinct camps. There are the “Enhanced,” who are bred through Eugenics programs to be perfect, beautiful, intelligent and strong. They live in walled cities and compete for the ultimate prize – the chance to remain in the city and become members of the Conclave, the ruling body. Those who don’t make the grade are “culled” from the program and kicked out of the gated cities to live with the “Norms” or “Unenhanced.” The “Norms” compete for menial serving jobs within the cities to help support their families in the slums outside the walls. There are also the “Augmented,” who fall somewhere in between and work in security and military capacities, with slight gene modifications but not full enhancements. The last category are the Agri-slaves, who work for the giant agricultural corporation, toiling in the fields amidst the chemical clouds and growing the food that sustains everyone else.

Ms. Farrell paints an intricate portrait of this scientifically based Brave New World, where diseases and weaknesses have been bred out of the Enhanced race over the last few hundred years. One doctor wants to take the program even further, conducting his own secret experiments on Enhanced children and the Norms who work in his labs. The story follows the action that ensues after his twisted experiments go wrong.

We meet Michelle Atherton, the main character of the novel, right in the first chapter, when the doctor visits her classroom to select students for his next experiment. When he chooses her brother as well as the boy she’s crushing on, she gets agitated – and then he takes Michelle along too. The author does a great job of ratcheting up the stakes and the stress from the very beginning.

Sixteen-year-old Michelle wavers on the razor edge between childhood and adulthood, at some points sounding and acting like a child, and at other times being completely ruthless in her assessments of situations. Part of this is the age of the characters, but there are several inconsistencies that popped up and made me scratch my head. For example, Michelle is secretly in love with her brother’s best friend Brian, but later acknowledges that Enhanced don’t form monogamous relationships and happily kisses another boy.

This well-written story kept me interested and reading, and wondering where the author was going next. There were a few times when the storyline made me uncomfortable, and I wondered if maybe it should be NA instead of YA, but in the end I guess it fits YA more. Some of the transitions were hard to follow, and some scenes felt rushed, but the storyline was compelling and made for a quick read. The ending left open a possibility for an interesting sequel, and I’m hoping Ms. Farrell finishes it quickly!

Find ENHANCED on Goodreads here:

Or find it HERE on Amazon.

About the Author:

Courtney Farrell is a biologist who turned her love of books into a career as an author. She has written fifteen nonfiction books for young people, mostly on social and environmental topics. Her first YA novel, Enhanced, was launched by Crescent Moon Press. Farrell lives with her husband and sons on a Colorado ranch where they enjoy a menagerie of horses, dogs, cats, chickens and one awesome green tree from called Froglodyte.

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