The idea of genetically modified teens being used as weapons is not a new idea. Kimberley Kinrade wrote a series on this theme some time ago, and I’ve read quite a few YA books recently about teens with genetic modifications. It’s not surprising since genetic modification for humans is emerging as a very real possibility in our society, and I expect we will see more fiction in this vein.
Although it shares many overly common elements of YA fantasy, for example a new school, a supposedly bad boy that is hard to resist, and the resident bully who seems to need little inspiration for their nastiness, Deviation is still an excellent, well-crafted story that keeps you hooked in and has a surprising twist at the end that leaves the story nicely set up for sequels. I think this book will be well enjoyed by YA speculative fiction fans.
Cleo lives in a world of the future where terrorism has made huge scars on the American people and cities. She is a sophisticate, someone genetically modified while in utero, and raised without their parents by The Project who developed the technology, paid for the modification and owns the result. Parents are called donors and have no contact with their offspring, so the children’s friends are of great importance to them. They’re the closest thing they have to a family, so when the project moves Cleo away from her best friend Cassie, she is devastated.
Cleo and Cassie have been together their whole life, they’ve been genetically designed to be super intelligent, so why does Cleo find herself taken to a different kind of school, one where the Sophisticates are designed for warfare more than intelligence. Could it have something to do with the fact that she set her room on fire? Yes, Cleo discovers that she has a deviation. She was modified more than the usual Sophisticates. They designed her as a weapon with the qualities of a Malaysian Fire Ant. She can make things explode. This is not something she wanted, and she certainly doesn’t want to hurt anyone with her talents, but will she be able to escape what The Project has planned for her?
The romantic interest is Ozzie. He also has a deviation (perfect aim) and knows more than he should about Cleo. He tells her that she is one of twelve given a similar kind of superhero deviation. Cassie is also one. She will turn up at the military school once she starts to display her talent. The only way to not become used as a weapon is not to display your talents, but that’s difficult when others attack you.
The story revolves around the relationships between Cleo and Ozzie and her other new friends and enemies, and the unfolding mystery of the Deviant Dozen. Ozzie is an unknown quantity. Can Cleo trust him? Just when she thinks she can, something happens to make her withdraw from him, then her hormones draw her close again.
The characters are generally strong, well portrayed and very real. The only one that comes across as being somewhat underdeveloped is the electric eel. For her to escape the generic baddy syndrome, we need more insight into her motivations. Other than that, the book was well written with a sleek, well paced plot. The story ends with as many questions unanswered as it began, but they are different questions.
All up, it’s well done, and though not ground-breaking or thought provoking as such a subject matter could be, it’s a good solid story for its genre.