Emmeline Chance is so anxious about returning from California to Vermont to her highly prestigious and select private high school that she relies heavily on the “pharmas” her therapist has given her to dull her pain after the suicide of her closest and dearest friend and classmate, Oliver. When she arrives for the first-day welcome ceremony, she learns that the school has six new students who are clones of students already attending Darkwood Academy, and one of them, Levi, is Oliver’s clone. Her reaction is predictably over-the-top. She tells Levi right away to get out of her sight and to find another school, which of course he does not do. Then she does her best to avoid him in classes, in the lunchroom and everywhere else on campus.
The situation worsens when the top five high-scoring juniors on an academic exam join the group of Ten (an exclusive and secretive leadership team approved by the administration) and three of the five are clones. Emma and Levi find themselves unavoidably thrown together, but their relationship changes, leaving Emma feeling conflicted about her loyalty to Oliver.
All of the clones are met with varying degrees of acceptance (or non-acceptance) by the Ten and by the rest of the students. When Emma’s roommate and best friend, Pru, is attacked and almost killed, the movement by the campus anti-clone group gains momentum as Levi falls under suspicion. From this point forward, Emma’s search for answers about the clones and Pru’s mysteriously-continued absence leads her through an investigation of Darkwood Academy history that is convoluted and revelatory.
Readers will find this a fascinating read that is full of surprises. Besides addressing the very contemporary concern about who “owns” your DNA and its associated data, the book presents characters and situations that are highly relatable to teenagers. Best of all (for them), this is the beginning of a series! There is little objectionable material–a “hell,” a “dammit,” one religious expletive, some violence, a reference to a student’s “two dads,” no sex. That’s it.
Categories: Addiction, Books We Recommend, Bullying, Controversial YA Topics, Crime, Death and Grieving, Depression, Diversity, Dysfunctional Relationships, Grief, LGBTQIA, Mental Health, Navigating through High School, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Political Activism, Science, Science Fiction, Suicide, Violence