Saturday, March 8, 2014

You are Cordially Invited to Get Sucked In!

How much can our genetics determine who we are? Does the color of our skin or our physical stature change the way people act around us? Do our genes hold the key to preventing violent people from committing crimes? In Sophie Jordan's Uninvited, we have to ask ourselves how far we are willing to go to protect ourselves.

Davy is your typical upper class private school girl with all the opportunities in the world. As a musical prodigy, she aspires to go to Julliard after graduation. When her high school screens for the "killer gene" or HTS (Homicidal Tendency Syndrome), the last person you would think to carry the dangerous genetic code would be Davy, but HTS doesn't follow patterns or expectations. The minute Davy's test results are communicated to the school, she is "uninvited" or basically expelled. The local private school has a program for carriers like Davy, but it means they must show up and leave int he middle of standard class times to avoid interacting with "normal" kids. When she arrives for her first day, she is led to her classroom, The Cage.

While the separation of the people with HTS is meant to protect the general public, it quickly becomes a means for the "normal" population to attack and corral the HTS population. Davy experiences this at the hands of her own boyfriend and friends. Once they find out her status, she is an untouchable. Even her own parents are scared and ashamed of her. She can't believe how the other kids in the Cage survive being treated like this, but the truth is, most of them were untouchable before a test confirmed they carried the Killer Gene. When HTS terrorists commit an unspeakable act, there is nothing left to do but take the segregation a step further. What happens when you put a bunch of people together who already have a genetic predisposition to kill? You can only imagine...

This is a fast-paced, incredible thriller that connects deeply to current situations in a broad, science fiction realm. As I was reading about the prejudice against the HTS kids, I could not help but think about current racial and sexual orientation issues that plague our nation. We currently have legislation that is openly prejudiced against our LGBTQ population that eerily relates to the kind of governmental prejudice in this book. This part of the population had done nothing wrong, but the mere possibility they might was enough to strip them of their rights to freedom. Sound familiar? I loved the carefully shrouded implications Jordan makes about society and how we treat anyone we see as "other". As a teacher of dyslexic students, I see first-hand how a label can change everything. Our students want to be "normal" and what they don't realize (and society perpetuates) is the idea that the way they learn makes them abnormal, different, or defective. It is heartbreaking to watch, and Jordan does a phenomenal job of exploring those feelings of isolation and prejudice with Uninvited

The characters in this story, whether you love or hate them, are also amazing representatives of the different approaches people will have to this type of situation. The government gets pressured into questionable legislation based on the acts of a few terrorists who do not represent the general population. Davy's mother is ashamed and overwhelmed while her father disappears completely and wishes he could sweep it all under the carpet. Davy's boyfriend and friends turn on her in an incredible, despicable, and realistic manner. But the characters aren't all vile. Davy's brother in unwavering in his love and support of her. He is willing to do anything to keep her safe. Sean, a fellow carrier who doesn't stick his neck out for anyone, can't stand by and let Davy be eaten alive by those around her. Most of all, this book symbolizes that those we think are predisposed to the most evil, often are not the most evil in reality, or even evil at all. This is important to remember, and I love how Jordan makes us question how we define ourselves compared to how society defines us. This was a great story for a variety of readers. I guarantee any reader will draw parallels to the world we live in today, but they might not like where they fall in that mirror image! 

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