Title: Uninvited (Uninvited, #1)
Author: Sophie Jordan
Rating: 3 Stars
Release Date: January 28th, 2014
I am no stranger to disappointment. It trails me, especially in-between the words, in the spaces where potential lingers, but is passed over. I often pause at these gaps – these chasms – of un-realized fulfillment, seeking the gratification of invisible letters to clutters the emptiness. Alas, Jordan’s Uninvited is just another novel whose premise enticed me, concept intrigued me, and first few pages kept me glued…only to close the cover with a bang, a whoosh of air, and a sigh of discontentment. Admittedly, Jordan tries to cover the expanse her original idea covers, but these attempts are no substitute for a full-fledged, thought-provoking thriller. Ultimately, Uninvited isn’t bad…it just isn’t unforgettable either.
In the not-so-distant future of Uninvited, scientists have found a gene that identifies killers. In fact, according to statistics, at least half of the murders committed in America were committed by individuals who carried this gene, known as the Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS). Davy, a talented musician whose acceptance to Julliard has clinched her future, could never have imagined she carried the killer gene. When her genetic testing results report positive, her admission to Julliard is rescinded, she is uninvited from the private school she attends (despite her economic advantages), her best friend and boyfriend refuse to interact with her, and she is placed with five other carriers in a public school nearby. Now, the only question in Davy’s life remains…is she the girl she thought she was or the killer her DNA proclaims her to be?
It should come as no surprise that the question of “nature vs. nurture” is still regularly debated; a question whose answers vary just as much as the life-long question of “what comes first – the chicken or the egg?” Needless to say, with this innovative concept, Jordan had more than just a little to handle on her plate. And, at first, I was more than satisfied. Davy’s sudden recognition of the gene she carries, the slow estrangement of her friends and family, the fear she sees in the eyes of others…it’s a shocking, but realistic, reaction. After all, though Davy is the same girl she always was, the knowledge of the gene she possesses leaves her close comrades in harm: if anything were to trigger her killing gene, they would be the first targets. Thus, it becomes no difficult task to sympathize with Davy.
Moreover, Jordan delves into the unforeseen consequences of discovering this gene. Davy is placed in public school to graduate, but in solitary confinement with five other students. In fact, she has no teacher, no friends, no lunch time, no recess, no gym class…nothing. While Davy is far from a killer – or seems that way – that isn’t the case with the other carriers she meets. Some, like the tech-savvy Gil, seem unable to commit harm, but others, like Sean, have been branded for their violence. What I found most interesting about this situation was the fact that the discovery of this gene isolates individuals, which coincidentally puts them in the ideal situation to trigger their killer instincts. Estrangement, after all, leads to bitterness and in the teenage boys Davy meets, manifests itself in violent ways. Even more disarming, however, is the fact that the girls – also estranged from society – are now placed in situations with violent men who are stronger than they are. Thus, though these girls, like Davy, have the potential to become killers, they are still weaker than those around them and will resort to terrible means to find a modicum of safety. For me, this first-half of Uninvited was the strongest, outlying the different results of this gene and truly portraying humanity in a realistic, though uncomfortable light.
Where this story began to lose my attention, though, was in the second-half. After a mall shooting committed by individuals possessing the killer gene, all carriers in America are rounded up and placed in seclusion camps. A select few teenagers, though, are taken to a government training facility to be taught how to control their violent tendencies. As a musical prodigy, Davy is – naturally – chosen. Unfortunately, instead of using this opportunity as a means to instill world-building, background, or politics into this novel, Jordan continues along the same stream she already has. Additionally, the romance begins to gain greater importance in this part of the novel, which is fine – I rather enjoyed the slow-burn story between Davy and Sean, particularly their initial differences and gradual conversations – but I did feel as if Sean’s presence inhibited Davy’s growth. In fact, it become cumbersome to see Sean save the day, time-and-time again, by going to Davy’s rescue. I genuinely wanted to see more growth from her, beyond the initial eye-opening scenes into her new life. Moreover, the ending of this novel is rushed and abrupt, refusing to examine the sticky emotional situation Davy is reeling from after events towards the end. While I appreciate that this series is a duology – a pleasant change from the typical trilogy – I was still left disappointed; confused whether it was worth my time and effort to pick up the sequel when it released.
Uninvited, you see, lacks world-building. For one, we are given absolutely no information about the discovery of this gene or the political/scientific repercussions about it. While it is made clear that the training facility Davy is sent to is mandated by the government, there are very few insights into the political scheme revolving around this situation. I, for one, would have imagined that the discovery of this gene immediately would raise gun-control concerns. After all, do we want potential killers to be in possession of guns? Moreover, what about the rights being violated by quarantining these people away? Where are the human rights activists? Where are the protests by disgruntled family members? Uninvited takes place in a bubble, with few glimpses into the real-world repercussions if this event were to actually take place. Even Davy’s family, beyond her older brother Mitchell, is strangely non-vocal about what their daughter is going through. Davy’s interactions with them are minimal, which is yet another disappointment.
Nevertheless, I do not doubt that most readers will enjoy this novel immensely. Its characterization and romance are spot-on and, to some extent, it even makes one think, bringing up an uncomfortable, but intriguing, subject matter. For the readers who are expecting more of a psychological bite, however, or just a pleasant dose of science-fiction and politics, Uninvited is not that story. We are all, sadly, still waiting for it to be written.