Any time a character seems to have the perfect life, you know it's going to come crashing down. In Uninvited, a YA dystopian novel by Sophie Jordan, the protagonist is an imperfect but likable teenager whose seemingly ideal life comes to a screeching halt...all because of something she hasn’t done yet.
High school senior Davey Hamilton is attractive, talented, and ambitious. She's a star student at her prestigious prep school and a musical prodigy with a spot at Juliard after graduation. She even has a hunky boyfriend, Zac, who will join her in the city at NYU. But Davey’s perfect life and plans change abruptly a few months before graduation. Results from the she took at the start of the year come back positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTC), more commonly known as the kill gene. In almost an instant, Davey becomes a social leper. She is “uninvited” -or expelled- from prep school, loses her spot at Juliard, is abandoned by Zac and her friends. Even though she has never hurt anyone, she is treated like she already has, because it is presumed that she one day will.
Davey is sent to public school for the remainder of the year, thrown in an underground classroom nicknamed “the cage” with fellow “carriers” of HTC. But every time Davey thinks her life can’t get worse, it does. HTC carriers around the country are acting out, prompting the government to discipline them more harshly, even if they haven’t yet committed a crime. Will Davey ever find a safe haven where she isn’t treated like a criminal -- and where she’s safe from the people who have targeted her simply because she’s a carrier?
The success or failure of a story, regardless of genre or even plot, often hinges on its characters. Davey is certainly an interesting character, though not perfect. She stereotypes several of her fellow carriers (assuming new classmate Sean plays violent video games simply because he’s a carrier and sports multiple tattoos), and basically admits to stealing boyfriend Zac from her best friend, Tori. Still, it’s difficult not to sympathize with her when her social status is demoted to that of a common criminal.
Like any good dystopian, there's a lot to think about here. A blurb on the back of the novel describes it as “Minority Report meets The Scarlet Letter,” which is pretty accurate. Both the government and her peers assume a lot about Davey and her fellow carriers, and much of it is true; most murderers are also carriers. But the carriers aren't given much of a chance to prove themselves as productive members of society. When Davey begins to toughen up, you might begin to wonder just how effective this system is. Is Davey acting out because she was always going to...or because she's being treated like someone who already has?
With murders, violence, and stereotyping to the point of individuals losing their rights such common topics even today, readers of dystopian fiction will likely enjoy the latest installment in the genre. You can pick it up in bookstores today. And look for the sequel, Unleashed, coming in 2015.
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