Best friends Kayla and Mishalla know they will be separated when the time comes for their Assignments. They are GENs, Genetically Engineered Non-humans, and in their strict caste system, GENs are at the bottom rung of society. High-status trueborns and working-class lowborns, born naturally of a mother, are free to choose their own lives. But GENs are gestated in a tank, sequestered in slums, and sent to work as slaves as soon as they reach age fifteen.
When Kayla is Assigned to care for Zul Manel, the patriarch of a trueborn family, she finds a host of secrets and surprises—not least of which is her unexpected friendship with Zul’s great-grandson. Meanwhile, the children that Mishalla is Assigned to care for are being stolen in the middle of the night. With the help of an intriguing lowborn boy, Mishalla begins to suspect that something horrible is happening to them.
After weeks of toiling in their Assignments, mystifying circumstances enable Kayla and Mishalla to reunite. Together they hatch a plan with their new friends to save the children who are disappearing. Yet can GENs really trust humans? Both girls must put their lives and hearts at risk to crack open a sinister conspiracy, one that may reveal secrets no one is ready to face.
I really enjoyed this book. Initially I only wanted to read it because of the cover, but once I’d received it, and actually taken the time to read the blurb, I was excited to dive in. I keep saying that I don’t want to read YA novels, but I think what I really mean is that I want something like this – something beautiful, something with impact. Books that have something to say about the world. This one has a lot to say.
I thought it was beautifully written, the images easily visualized even though it was set on a world not our own. You are thrown in with very little backstory, but once you’ve got your head around life as a GEN things start to become clear.
The story line has readers questioning what it is that makes someone human, or non-human. Does being human make you more important than others? Why? These questions can also be turned to race and class – does being born white, or brown, in the north or south, in a city, or a country, with assistance or without make you any better or worse than any other individual?
I think these are important questions, and I liked the way they were dealt with in this novel. The two main characters were well drawn, though I think Kayla had more depth than Mishalla. Kayla was strong and rough around the edges, whereas Mishalla was gentle and more of a nurturer – these things were genetically built into their make up, and I liked how throughout the novel, these predetermined parts of their personality were drawn on, but also challenged.
I would definitely recommend this book, and I’ll be looking out for other titles by this author. As far as I can tell this is a stand alone book, which I liked (there are SO many series around at the moment), but I would read more in this world, if more books did appear.