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 When her genetic testing results report positive, her admission to Julliard is rescinded, she is uninvited from the private school she attends (despite her economic advantages), her best friend and boyfriend refuse to interact with her, and she is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.
I think most readers are going to be disappointed in the world-building factor, and enjoyment of this novel is going to depend on what you look for when you're reading. Lots and lots of YA readers read for the romance - and they know Jordan is a romance writer. But when books like this are marketed as dystopian thrillers, there is a dissonance that is hard to breach.ReplyDelete
This book has a ton of potential - much the same as the author's first foray into YA with her Firelight series. Unfortunately, it fails to deliver where it counts. Jordan does fantastically dealing with inner conflict and also interpersonal relationships. I'd be interested to see her write something in the contemporary side of YA.
I totally agree with your review. I just very much hope that the second book gets better, in both Davy's personal growth and in the world-building.
I'm hoping for an improvement in the sequel as well, Bekka. You make a good point that readers going into this expecting a hardcore science-fiction novel are likely to be rather disappointed, so I wonder how this will be received among fans of Jordan. I guess we'll have to wait and see...Delete
I agree, Keertana, I thought the first half of the book was much stronger than the second. I still enjoyed it, but it didn't quite deliver on the promise of the set-up, and I wonder whether it will in the sequels? I ended up rating this 3.5 stars, I think, but a full .5 of that is probably because of the boy with the smoke-blue eyes, hah. Definitely more romance-y than anything else in the end.ReplyDelete
Kate's reviewing this one for us, and I think she liked it a bit more.
Wendy @ The Midnight Garden
I don't blame you for those .5 stars, Wendy, because I quite enjoyed the romance in this one. ;) I'm looking forward to reading Kate's thoughts!Delete
I brought up the whole chicken vs. the egg question in my review too Keertana! I liked that this one definitely made me debate with myself and wonder how society overall would handle the presence of something like the HTS gene. I'm sorry this one didn't quite blow you away, I absolutely loved it, though you do raise some good points about the real world repercussions.ReplyDelete
I happen to agree with you on almost everything, but this struck a chord with me anyway. It got me thinking about how much science rules our lives and how much we can expect it to in the future and quite frankly, it got me scared. And so I ended up thinking about this one a whole lot after I finished it, which doesn't happen all that often.ReplyDelete
Lovely review, hon.
Maja, I think your thoughts are spot-on with the type of thoughts I usually have after sci-fi novels, but I was left with more questions than contemplative remarks after this one, unfortunately. The Sky Chasers Series by Amy Kathleen Ryan, which I know you also love, on the other hand had be thinking about our future technology, delving into space, and the repercussions of human nature getting in the way of a programmed plan. I'm glad this one made you think along the same lines and I hope the sequel gets me thinking the same way.Delete
I think I would have the same problems as you did, but still a bit curious about this one. It still sounds like it gets one thinking and I enjoy that. Hm... still might wait for the second one to come out to decide to get it or library book it.ReplyDelete
Hmm this sounds fairly interesting, I guess, but not something that I'd be that curious to pick up even before reading your review. I like that Jordan is able to provoke some fascinating discussions about science and the whole nature vs. nurture argument. That aspect actually does sound fairly interesting. But I believe this is the same author who wrote those dragon books (Firelight?). Those were readable but also felt kind of superficial in the way you're saying this one does. So, yes, I think I'll have to pass this by. Great review, though, Keertana!ReplyDelete
Yup, Jordan wrote Firelight, Amanda. I find superficial is an apt term to describe this book, mostly as Jordan touched upon the true realities of this novel in a manner that didn't bother to delve in any deeper and question other aspects. I have a feeling you'd enjoy this, though, so if the sequel is any better I'll let you know.Delete
Arghh, I really was hoping that this would be THE book that is able to fully tackle the psychological questions and touch upon morality, the book that I've been waiting for. However, I do think that I'll pick it up, despite the fact that it's really focused on the romance. It makes me sad that the main love interest, Sean, doesn't really allow for the MC's growth. I've always been of the opinion that love interest should make a person stronger, a better version of themselves. Maybe that's just what I get from movies like Tangled, though. =PReplyDelete
I'm also disappointed by the fact that this book really lacks in the second half. It seems rather intriguing, with the mall shooting and such, yet I guess Jordan really fails to address the questions, character growth, or even world-building at all, despite the ample opportunities presented by that situation. Yet, the way she seems to touch upon the stick subject of "nature vs. nurture" really has me intrigued about this book. So, I think I may just pick it up, although I will definitely be lowering my expectations.
Gorgeous review, as always, Keertana! <3
Aneeqah I wouldn't say that Sean inhibits the growth of the protagonist, rather that his presence draws the focus to the romance more than any more growth that I was hoping for in the second-half. I do think you'll enjoy this if you pick it up with lowered expectations - I certainly hope you do! I'm definitely curious to read your final thoughts and see what you think! :)ReplyDelete
I don't know about you but when a books lefts me with these feelings it's worse than anything. Books that ultimately disappoint me will cause greater emotions and will stay longer in my memory than those that are just there. I'm so sorry to hear this about this book as I was truly excited for it. Great review, Keertana :)ReplyDelete
Hmmm. I passed over this one, with the idea that I might come back to it when further books are released. I wonder if some of the world building could get stronger later? That tends to happen in these types of trilogies. Sometimes successfully, sometimes it just seems like authors are trying to explain missing information. But I digress….As for this story. I like the concept of isolating a "killing" gene, as well as the nature v.s nurture debate you outlined. Especially, as Davy is forced into isolating and hostile situations. I don't mind a strong romance, but rushed plot is disappointing. I'm glad you found some things to enjoy about this one and for that it will remain somewhere on my radar.ReplyDelete
Lauren, this one is actually a duet, so I'm thinking the world-building will be getting stronger in the sequel because of the way this novel ended. I know a lot of readers enjoyed this one more than I did and as an aspiring Molecular Biology Major who interns in a Genetic Lab, I definitely had more background and expectations going into this than most readers did. I am planning to pick up the sequel (if I get an ARC...otherwise I'll likely forget about it), so if there is a significant improvement I'll let you know. Meanwhile, I'll be looking out for your thoughts on this if you choose to read it.ReplyDelete
I liked this one quite a bit because Sophie Jordan's writing just clicks with me but I did feel disappointed particularly with the ending as it does not end with the bang that would have me definitely hooked for the sequel. Did not realize it was a duology so that affects what I'll be expecting to wrap everything up.ReplyDelete
Definitely agree with a lot of your points. I questioned some of the worldbuilding details and I didn't love the way that Davey jumped from one guy to another. I thought the premise and set-up raised so many interesting questions and I wished it had spent more time expanding on those.ReplyDelete
Jen @ YA Romantics