Read: January 24-25, 2013
Published: January 1st 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Library book
Category: Action, Adventure, Sci-fi, YA
When you can’t trust yourself, who can you believe?
Everything about Anna’s life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There’s Nick, Cas, Trev . . . and Sam, who’s stolen Anna’s heart. When the Branch decides it’s time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape, killing the agents sent to retrieve them.
Anna is torn between following Sam or staying behind in the safety of her everyday life. But her father pushes her to flee, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs. There’s just one problem. Sam and the boys don’t remember anything before living in the lab—not even their true identities.
Now on the run, Anna soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they’re both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away. (From Goodreads)
I started Altered after a serious case of book burn, when I needed to read something fast paced and fun. Thankfully, that's exactly what I got from this book, as well as four genetically altered guys who are all channeling Jason Bourne.
Anna lives with her father in a farmhouse in rural New York. It's the type of place where nothing much happens, except that you never know what's going on below the surface. Literally. Underneath Anna's house is a lab where her father monitors and tests Nick, Cas, Trev and Sam, four boys that are being developed into super-soliders. But when the Branch - the organization funding the project - decides it's ready to use them, the boys decide that they're done being research. When the boys' plan to escape the lab escalates into violence, Anna is forced to flee with them. While on the run, they begin to piece together who they are and how they are all connected. (Adapted from the description above)
Anna is the narrator of the story. She lives with her dad, is home schooled and likes to draw. Her only peer interaction is with the four boys isolated below her house. It is no surprise then that she has grown attached to them (all but Nick, because she doesn't get along with him).
Sam is the brooding leader.
Nick is angry and resentful.
Cas is a mix of easy going and ADHD.
Trev is the intellectual one.
While the guys are all different, most of what made them unique was fairly stereotypical and flat, and Anna read as extremely sheltered and vanilla when the story began. However, many details about the characters that I questioned at first, made a lot of sense eventually. I also think that the fact that the boys were all suffering from amnesia and had no idea who they were and where they came from, plays into this. Thankfully, Altered is fast paced, and a few of the characters even surprised me along the way. Anna, especially, became more interesting as the story unfolded. I think (hope) that there will be more dynamic character growth in the next installment.
Although I was immediately intrigued by why the boys were being isolated in an underground lab, with only a scientist and his daughter to monitor them, I had a lot of questions that made me worry that Altered would be riddled with plot holes. Thankfully, most of the elements that I was initially skeptical about, were clarified later on. Although I'm still a bit confused about the science behind the genetic alterations (aka 'how does it work?'), the story became more logical and complex as it went along. And though I do wish that the book had felt stronger from the beginning, the fact that it appeared weak at first, made me more impressed with later explanations.
The love story is another piece of this book that I initially thought was weak. When Altered begins, the reader is told that Anna has already fallen for Sam. But because we were not shown the evolution of their attachment, it was hard to decipher why she chose him over the other three guys. Thankfully, the further I read in the story and the more I got to know the characters and their connections to each other, the more it made sense. Even so, the romance remains fairly subtle throughout Altered, which I always prefer for the beginning of a series. Although there are no triangles here, I can see the possibility that one could develop, or even another love shape could form in the next book. This makes me nervous, especially in light of my recent POSTS. But I'm fairly confident that those relationships will just add tension, and not be a problem in the long run.
More than just a half-dressed boy, this cover is actually very meaningful to the story!
A note on the violence
The more horrific school shootings I hear about, the more uncomfortable I become with violence on TV and in books. Although it is clear that Altered is a work of fiction, the story does include teens who carry guns and kill 'bad guys.' I really enjoyed this book, but reading about characters shooting each other, especially when the book is set in the real world, has started to make me slightly uneasy. This is in no way a critique of story, but more a personal discussion that I've been having with myself. It is also a note for younger readers that there are a few scenes when multiple people are shot and killed.
I picked up Altered because I was looking for a light story with lots of action and some romance. Thankfully, that is exactly what I got. Although some details of the plot appeared to be weak at first, the more revelations these characters uncovered, the stronger the story became. Even better, Altered quietly asks some complex questions, especially regarding its characters and their relationships. I'm really looking forward to what happens next.
Love Triangle Factor: Mild
Cliffhanger Scale: Low - Altered wraps itself up nicely while leaving room for future books.