Black’s debut YA sci-fi novel confronts the realities of life in a genetically modified world.
Valeria the Fifth, or “V,” as she prefers to be called, is in the “Fifth Order” at a place called the Center. She and the 15 other people have all been genetically engineered to be more capable than other humans—stronger, faster, and most importantly, smarter; their thoughts are “collected” by a Center computer system and shared among them to help them learn faster. Now that she’s 16, it’s time for her to begin her own genetic-modification research; she hopes that her work will be published like those in the Orders before her—in fact, it’s the ultimate goal of everyone at the Center. They all live their lives by the Codex, a strict set of rules that govern how they are to act—and even feel. But V has a secret: She’s been breaking the rules by spending time with a boy in her Order that she likes named Marcus the Fifth. After V discovers that the Center’s director—whom she already despised—was responsible for editing her genetic makeup, she begins to rebel even more. She enlists the help of Julius the Fifth, another Order member, to detach her mind from the rest of the collective. Although this freedom comes with a price, it inspires V to try to build a life of her own. However, the world outside the Center is harsher than she expected. Debut author Black puts forth a rather original novel about teenage rebellion, and also reveals the harsh realities that come with tasting freedom, only to lose it again. The main character, V, may be somewhat conveniently “special,” compared with the rest of the collective, but the author does a fair job of supplying her with believable motivations for her actions. She’s not the most likable character, but she does have a redemption arc that effectively showcases Black’s writing talent. The story as a whole has a number of twists and turns, and although some are moderately predictable, others will surprise readers and leave them eager for more.
A suspenseful, futuristic tale that will keep young readers entertained.