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Uninvited by Sophie JordanTitle: Uninvited
Author: Sophie Jordan
ISBN: 9780062233653
No. of Pages: 384
Genre: Science Fiction; Young Adult
Origins: HarperTeen
Release Date: 28 January 2014
Bottom Line: Strong premise and fascinating commentary on labels

“You can’t change your DNA . . . even when it says you’re a murderer.

When Davy tests positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome, aka ‘the kill gene,’ she loses everything. Once the perfect high school senior, she is uninvited from her prep school and abandoned by her friends and boyfriend. Even her parents are now afraid of her—although she’s never hurt a fly. Davy doesn’t feel any different, but genes don’t lie. One day she will kill someone.

Without any say in the matter, Davy is thrown into a special class for HTS carriers. She has no doubt the predictions are right about them, especially Sean, who already bears the ‘H’ tattoo as proof of his violence. Yet when the world turns on the carriers, Sean is the only one she can trust. Maybe he’s not as dangerous as he seems.

Or maybe Davy is just as deadly.”

Thoughts: The strongest, and most interesting, element of Uninvited is the social commentary Davy’s situation provides. In fact, Davy is her own social commentary. Her life changes so dramatically from the moment she learns she has the kill gene that the shock both she and a reader experience is an awakening to the dangers and biases associated with such labels. Davy’s perplexity at how someone could consider her a danger to society mirrors a reader’s own puzzlement at the situation. Everything that happens to Davy after she receives her genetic profile confirms a reader’s growing sense of horror at the government’s monitoring of DNA.

Let’s face it; our society is all about labels. We label everyone and tell ourselves that it is to best serve the needs of an individual group. We label departments in a business environment and then struggle to get the various departments to work together. We label strangers or celebrities and think we understand them based on those labels. We label students – oh, how we label students – and use those labels to provide them with the individualized attention they might need (based on that label) to graduate. We do this and then collectively congratulate ourselves on our ability to assess everyone else and make sure that no one group is unduly burdened by the issues of another group. Yet, what happens when we get the labels wrong? More importantly, is it safe to judge a person based on one simple label?

If a student is falsely labeled a troublemaker and put into a classroom environment filled with other troublemakers, will the student become a troublemaker through association? Does the label become a self-fulfilling prophecy because of the attitudes and biases of others towards the label? Is putting all of the troublemakers into one group the best way of serving their needs? What about the gifted kids? Are they best served by being separated from everyone else? The same thing applies to strangers and even in the business world. Are our labels causing more harm than good?

In Uninvited, Ms. Jordan makes a great case about the extreme danger of labels. Through Davy’s rapid decline from perfect student and musical prodigy to perceived delinquent and killer in all but action only, one sees how harsh society’s judgments are of people with certain labels. More importantly, she highlights how those judgments impact the people towards who they are directed and the nasty little catch-22 scenario that ensues.

That there is more occurring behind the scenes than Davy is aware is obvious from the very beginning. That the laws enacted around those with the kill gene are there for more than just the populace’s protection is obvious based on various narrative shifts throughout the novel. However, whether the entire scenario in which Davy finds herself is a power play at the highest levels or a government involvement in the guise of citizen protection does nothing to diminish the damage done to Davy and everyone else found to be a carrier of the gene. It is precisely this sticky predicament that creates some of the more fascinating and gut-wrenching scenes and moments of truth in the entire novel.

Davy’s growth from naïve and extremely sheltered teen prodigy to potential assassin is both disturbing and intriguing. Her moments of adolescent whining, while completely understandable and appropriate, soon dissipate into even more appropriate anger and a much more disturbing cool-headed logic. Davy herself is a sympathetic and worthy heroine, but it is her situation which increases a reader’s ire…and blood pressure. There is a generic quality to Davy which makes it all too easy for readers to imagine themselves or other loved ones in her situation, fueling the ties that bind the reader to Davy’s fate and further tightening the tension in this fast-paced and eye-opening novel.

There is a lot that happens to Davy in the course of Uninvited, but one instinctively knows that the best, and worst, are yet to come. Her experiences in this novel are just the tip of the iceberg given what Ms. Jordan sneakily reveals. As a result, there is a built-in eagerness with which readers will want to glimpse the whole picture of the harsh and completely prejudicial world into which Davy is abruptly thrust. Simultaneously, the emotional connection to Davy stimulates the need to uncover her fate. This means readers will gladly devour Uninvited and be hungry for more in this provocative, intense emotional roller coaster of a new series.

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