I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.
Summary: Jack is a walking fossil. The only human among a sea of clones. It’s been hundreds of years since humanity died off in the slow plague, leaving the clones behind to carry on human existence. Over time they’ve perfected their genes, moving further away from the imperfections of humanity. But if they really are perfect, why did they create Jack?
While Jack longs for acceptance, Althea-310 struggles with the feeling that she’s different from her sisters. Her fascination with Jack doesn’t help. As Althea and Jack’s connection grows stronger, so does the threat to their lives. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?
Release date: February 6th, 2018
Althea-310 is one of ten Altheas of her generation (and one of the hundred Alteas from ten different generations, all simultaneously living at the time the book takes place). Her species calls themselves Homo Factus as opposed to Homo Sapiens, which went extinct three hundred years ago. Homo Factus started as a last hope for humans to continue their species when it was clear that the Slow Plague would wipe out every single one of them. A group of scientists modified human genes to be immune to this disease and started making clones out of the “better” DNA. When all the humans died, these clones took over and kept improving their species and created a society in which everything is strictly regulated in order to maintain a peaceful status quo.
However, things are changing during Althea-310’s late teen years, and a sign of it is the presence of Jack, a human boy (as in, a cloned Homo Sapiens, with no DNA modification). He’s literally a walking fossil and the differences between him and the “better” clones are many. He’s been brought up as closely as possible to how a human boy from three hundred years before might have been brought up, save for the fact that he’s had a very closely guarded childhood. However, in his teens he’s introduced to Althea-310’s generation and all sorts of problems start, mainly due to how different he is from everyone else in this society of perfected clones.
How foolish we were, to act as gods.
What might seem at first like a very good premise for a typical romance-heavy YA novel turns out to be a character and worldbuilding driven story. The romance is definitely atypical for your usual YA and it’s definitely not the main point of the story, and that only further improves my overall opinion of the book.
The story is, as I was saying, definitely character driven. The two point of views (Althea’s and Jack’s) work extremely well here since they’re technically two separate species (I’m not 100% sure of the scientific accuracy of my statement, but the clones do call themselves a different species than Homo Sapiens) with very different mindsets. That allows for an interesting study of what makes humans human, but it’s also not done in a cheesy way. It’s not a pretext for the idealization and idolization of humans and human society. The goods and bads of both sides are acknowledged and the ending brings enough answers for this to still be a standalone (which I believe it is, at least at the time I’m reviewing this) but with enough of a sort-of-open ending to allow for the reader’s curiosity to wander to these characters and world long after the book is over (and I have to say that if this ever turns out to have a sequel I will be happy).
This book is now one of my favorite dystopians ever and I’m so excited for more people to start reading it.