Title: Altered (Altered #1)
Author: Jennifer Rush
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
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.
Words cannot describe how wowed and surprised I was by this book. It wasn’t even on my original 2013 DAC list, but I added it after reading Tara’s review over at Hobbitsies, and I’m really, really happy I took a chance on it. At first I thought it would just be your average sci-fi thriller (I was also a bit concerned there would be a love pentagon between Anna and the four boys, but thankfully that didn’t happen), and though it had some elements of each of those genres, it was anything but average.
I actually ended up wishing that more time had been spent on the sci-fi aspects of the story, but can’t really think of a way that Rush could have added that to the plot and have it move as well as it did, so I think ultimately keeping the sci-fi more surface-level was a good decision. I liked how accessible the story was, even for someone like me who in the past has avoided science fiction at all costs.
Jennifer Rush’s writing was also surprisingly lyrical, a quality I don’t imagine is found very often in shoot-em-up thrillers. I loved that though the story was action-packed and entertaining, it easily garnered an emotional response as well.
Something else I really appreciated about Altered was that Rush used everything she introduced in the story (for example, Anna’s feelings about her dead mother) to further the plot. Nothing was left floating in the literary ether, as sometimes new writers do. As you read further and further into the story, you can see how good Rush is with plotting, and as most writers know, plotting can sometimes be a very difficult thing to do. Rush just used every piece of her story so effectively in the plot that I actually swooned a bit for every perfect twist or bit of uncovered evidence appeared.
In terms of characters, I loved all of them, even hard-as-nails Nick. Each of the boys was complicated and special in their own way, and their very different personalities made the the book even more fun to read. I also loved Anna and how different parts of her personality were revealed bit by bit throughout the book. In addition, I liked that Anna interacted with each boy differently and appreciated how Rush made her relationship with each of them so different.
I was really amazed by this debut and can’t wait for book two. Jennifer Rush seems like a fantastic new talent and I’m glad I took a chance and stepped a bit out of my comfort zone with her first book. A fabulous addition to the 2013 debut author collection!