Ignore the shaky start—within minutes, this medical-engineering thriller will have readers glued to their seats.
In the farmhouse upstairs, Anna and her widower dad lead a quiet life. Downstairs, the four surgically altered boys whom Anna has tended and her dad has studied for five years live in comfortable, isolated cells. Home-schooled Anna is isolated, too, her mother’s treasured, annotated cookbook their only connection. Though Anna’s attached to the boys, even sullen Nick, Sam is the one she sneaks down to see at night. She knows the boys are human lab rats in a project run by the Branch, a private company funded by the government, and dreams of freeing them, but it’s Sam who masterminds their escape when Branch agents show up to end the project. Urged by her dad, the boys take Anna with them. With no memory of life before the farmhouse and few clues to guide them to safety, their quest to understand what has happened to them yields fewer answers than questions, especially for Anna, whose own memories increasingly appear suspect. In the desperate race to find answers before the Branch agents find them, Anna clings to what she knows is true: her love for Sam. A surfeit of casual violence detracts from the ending, but this debut’s strengths—pacing and plot twists, especially—outweigh the deficits.
Riveting. (Science fiction. 12 & up)