Although Debra Dockter’s “Deadly Design” is billed as a young adult sci-fi thriller, it’s a sure bet that adults will enjoy this as well. It’s about twins. Twins who are two years apart in age.
While Connor and Kyle are identical in many ways, emotionally and scholastically they couldn’t be more different. Connor, the older twin, is an athletic superstar and equally talented in the classroom. Kyle, his younger twin (sounds strange, right?), has adopted more of a laissez faire attitude toward life. He loves playing video games, and he’s good at it. His preferred choice of physical activity is moving the joystick.
When Connor dies suddenly of a heart attack the day of his 18th birthday, his family is bereft. Kyle feels real regret for not accepting his brother’s overtures at closeness. Kyle always felt second-best compared to Connor, and now there’s no chance to be a better brother. When his family hears the news report about a 17-year-old girl who dies suddenly the day before her 18th birthday, his mother is shocked. It turns out that this girl was born at the same hospital as Connor, and was using the same doctor who genetically tweaked Connor and Kyle’s embryos so that they didn’t have the genetic defect that had caused their mother to lose previous babies.
There’s no such thing as coincidences, and when Kyle does a bit of online investigation, he finds another kid who was genetically manipulated. This kid has the same intensely colored eyes as Kyle. When Kyle tries to “friend” him on Facebook, he finds out that the kid died on his 18th birthday. Now Kyle is worried. If all the kids who were genetically manipulated by the same doctor are dying, does he only have two years left?
There is romance, also, in this sci-fi story, and it is also well done. The relationship between Kyle and Cami is real, with real doubts and real emotions. She helps him track down the mysterious doctor who performed the genetic manipulation. He had disappeared years before, and it’s not easy finding him. Then when they do find him, he can’t help. Kyle must figure out where to go and whom to turn to in order to save his life. Deciding who to trust is not easy.
The investigation intensifies through the course of the story, and there are twists and turns worthy of any experienced author. It’s a hard book to put down, and while parts of the ending are predictable, others are not. It’s a stand-alone novel, which is a nice change from all the series and trilogies rampant in young adult literature.
There are some great questions raised in the story. What does being genetically perfect mean? What does family mean? Should some people get to live forever? The theme of sibling rivalry and relationships is also explored.
This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers for review purposes.
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