I love a story that has enough twists, turns, and surprises that one is compelled to continue reading in order to find out what happens next. Such is the situation in Enhanced by Courtney Farrell, a dystopian novel where the created world only slightly resembles life as we know it. Here is a community ruled by controlled genetics with the haves, called the Enhanced, living with luxuries which are restricted for the have nots or “wild-bred” Norms. Even amongst the Enhanced, there is a hierarchy based upon the skills of the children – skills which are continually tested by Dr Salmon and his staff. These “examinations” might consist of physical group challenges or they could be an individual session to determine ones tolerance to pain. Or, perhaps, the children are used as human guinea pigs to discover the outcome of an experimental procedure or theory. Death, which occurs on occasion, is not a factor to be considered by these heartless scientists. Children quickly learn that any deficiency, whether intellectual, mental, or physical, counts against their score. The goal is to be rated worthy enough to be chosen as a breeder. At the other end of the scale is the “culling” ceremony where the deficient, those who are not strong enough or smart enough to be accepted into the group, are kicked out. These lesser individuals are forced to permanently leave their family and friends behind as they enter the world of the Norms – a place where poverty leads to hunger and violence in a community which attempts to survive outside the walls of the elite.
Brian who has just turned eighteen (the magic age where students are supposedly no longer candidates for experimentation) has amazingly been summoned, along with his best friend Seth, to the vacant laboratory of the abhorrent Dr Salmon where an unidentified object is inserted under their skin. This is the same Dr Salmon who internally “examines” young girls in a predatory manner just to make sure they aren’t riddled with cancer (an impossibility since the Enhanced have been bred to resist diseases). All the youngsters dread the doctor, but their fear of being targeted and bringing disgrace to their families keeps them silent. After all, being culled is literally a fate worse than death since it ends existence in their known universe.
Our inquisitive heroine, Michelle, at fifteen is one of the top students, yet she has to hide all her fears and anxieties so as not to exhibit any weaknesses. Her feisty brother, Seth, is also an exemplary member of society. Their parents are part of the leadership of the community. In fact, their grandfather is the leading member whose long life can be attributed to regular “treatments” to stay “younger” than his real age. Yet, even being amongst the most privileged of the privileged, living in a fine home with servants and owning all of the most current gadgets, does not protect them from the Council if a rule is broken.
Michelle has several close friends and together they figure out that something is not quite right in their community. Their lives have begun to change even before Seth and Brian are sent beyond the wall by the Institution to intermingle with the Norms. While on her mission to locate the two boys, Michelle realizes that the servants and other Norms aren’t mindless fools, but individuals with abilities and emotions. She starts to see beyond her seemingly perfect world in her quest to expose the secrets that Dr Salmon is withholding from the Council. Secrets which will have an impact on everyone if she fails to uncover them in time. In fact, in her search for the truth, she discovers that almost every aspect of her life is a puzzling illusion which she must decipher in order to save the earth from harm. Whether she is successful in her endeavors is up to the reader to decide.
This is an intriguing, well told tale. The teenage characters are defined in exquisite detail, with the perplexities of Enhanced society slowly revealed through their eyes as they unravel the mysteries which dictate their lives. I found this book to be a quick read, although the climax was a bit rushed and the conclusion less than satisfying (perhaps because the author wanted to use the lack of closure as a teaser to encourage us to read the sequel). Young Adults will enjoy this foray into a study of the possible effects of Extreme Eugenics which includes plenty of action plus a touch of romance. Four Stars.
I would like to thank the author for allowing me a free copy of her novel in exchange for an honest review which I am posting on Amazon, Goodreads, and on my blog, Gotta Read.