Saturday, October 6, 2012

Medical Experimentation: Skinny, Revived and UnWholly

As I was doing book talks at Monarch High School's teen book club today, I realized that medical procedures being performed to enhance or improve teens is a reoccurring theme in many of the new novels I have been reading lately.  In addition to Don't Turn Around which I reviewed in my last blog, three medical experimentation novels, ranging from realistic to science fiction, have impressed me recently. Skinny by Fort Collins author Donna Cooner, involves a teen undergoing bariatric bypass surgery to encourage dramatic weight loss.  Revived by Cat Patrick introduces Daisy, a test subject for a secret government agency. Daisy has died and been revived by a wonder drug five times in fifteen years.  UnWholly by Neal Shusterman is the sequel to Unwind, a novel which introduces the idea of killing troublesome teens and using their body parts for transplants.

At 302 pounds, Ever Davies’ self esteem is non-existent; thanks to the negative self talk provided by Skinny, the vicious voice that lives inside her head. Seeking the attention of Jackson, a childhood friend who once kissed her, and hoping to try out for the school musical, Ever resorts to undergoing bariatric bypass surgery to lose weight.  Supported by her best friend Rat, she begins the perilous journey toward the new and improved Ever, only to find that true beauty is more skin deep. The author has gone through the surgery herself and the details of the surgery and recovery process are pitch perfect.  

In Revive we meet Daisy is who is involved with a secret government program that is testing Revive, an experimental drug which can resurrect otherwise healthy accident victims. Each time Daisy is reanimated she must move to a new town to maintain the secret. After Daisy's latest death from a bee sting, she and  the two agents who pose as her parents move to Omaha, Nebraska. The agents strictly monitor Daisy's health, while operating a supercomputing lab in the basement. In Omaha she meets Matt McKean, whose sister is dying from cancer. As she begins to wonder about the moral implications of the government’s program, she uncovers unsavory facts about the origin of the Revive program.

UnWholly, the long awaited second book in the Unwind trilogy finds Connor, Risa and Lev urban legends after their escape from the Happy Jack Harvest Camp.  The author continues to explore the topic of outlawing birth control and abortion, but allowing society, which has highly advanced transplant procedures, to find much needed body parts by killing troublesome teens and using their organs for transplants. However, the practice is now being reconsidered by the general populace which is questioning its morality. Connor and Risa run the Graveyard, a safe haven for teens who have escaped being unwound; while Lev becomes the poster boy for a movement to rescue tithes, teens who are offered up for unwinding by religious parents. Even though they are underground, they are still being pursued by the powers that be. The author introduces several new characters, including Starkey, a teen who was storked (left on a doorstep as an infant) and now is inciting fellow storked teens to rebel against Connor's authority in the Graveyard. More interesting is Cam, a Frankenstein-like teen built completely from unwound body parts. He is being touted by the Proactive Citizenry organization as the future of humanity. Although Shusterman provides a Q & A section at the beginning of the book to fill in the back story, I would recommend reading Unwind first.  It is a thought provoking read which immerses reader in a  wildly exciting dystopic future world.