Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia Publication.Date September 16th 2014 Pages: 352 Published By: Simon and Schuster Books For Young Readers Author Stefanie Gaither Falls The Shadow on Goodreads My review copy: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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When Cate Benson was a kid, her sister, Violet, died. Two hours after the funeral, Cate’s family picked up Violet’s replacement. Like nothing had happened. Because Cate’s parents are among those who decided to give their children a sort of immortality—by cloning them at birth—which means this new Violet has the same smile. The same perfect face. Thanks to advancements in mind-uploading technology, she even has all of the same memories as the girl she replaced.
She also might have murdered the most popular girl in school.
At least, that’s what the paparazzi and the anti-cloning protestors want everyone to think: that clones are violent, unpredictable monsters. Cate is used to hearing all that. She’s used to defending her sister, too. But Violet has vanished, and when Cate sets out to find her, she ends up in the line of fire instead. Because Cate is getting dangerously close to secrets that will rock the foundation of everything she thought was true.
In a thrilling debut, Stefanie Gaither takes readers on a nail-biting ride through a future that looks frighteningly similar to our own time and asks: how far are you willing to go to keep your family together?
What should you say to someone you’d known your whole life but were just now meeting for the first time?
And that’s the part that I don’t like thinking about: knowing that there’s a stronger, physically superior version of me just waiting around for me to die.
It’s amazing how you can believe your life is so awful, but then something worse comes along, and suddenly you’d give anything to just have that normal, awful life back.
Catelyn and Violet were both cloned at birth, their clones raised in a 'controlled environment'. Their parents made copies of their daughters to be on the 'safe side', to have replacements just in case something bad happened to one of them. To be able to swipe a possible tragedy under a rug and pretend it never happened. But a tragedy did happen and Catelyn's older sister got sick and died. And then the replacement took her place, picking up exactly where the other girl left off, with all her memories downloaded neatly to her cloned brain. And life went on.
But when you want to play God, you need to be prepared for the consequences. And there are bound to be many.
Bland writing style, dialogues that are not situation-appropriate, bumpy pacing and narration relying solely on telling instead of showing, Falls The Shadow left me very dissatisfied and sad about its wasted potential. Top it all off with unmemorable, flat characters and what you get is a book that threatens (and, sadly, succeeds) to put you to sleep.
Cloning, DNA manipulation and stem cell research are hot and highly intriguing topics, and they are like a shiny treasure chest of ideas for authors interested in exploring darker Science Fiction themes. There is just so much potential there, so many angles one could approach these subjects on, so much depth and food for thought. And after a really promising and exciting prologue, I really believed the author would take these subjects and shape them into a great, interesting story. But though the idea behind the story wasn't bad, the execution of it was lacking in so many areas, the book was rather painful to read. And it pains me to admit that, I actually had to force myself to keep turning pages.
The first third of the story serves no purpose other than providing a back story to the conflict. We learn next to nothing about the characters and their personalities (other that that Catelyn is "an invisible wallflower" and Violet is a troublemaker and kind of rebel), we have no idea what is the core of the plot line, we witness no significant action. And worst of all, even the backstory is served in a really bad and boring fashion - in form of a long monologue. The science is missing from this Science Fiction book, the ideas thrown at us have no scientific grounding. They seem purely fictional and it's hard to take them seriously.
There isn't a whole lot of action in this book. Instead, the pages are filled mostly with dialogues between Catelyn, Jaxton and Seth. Dialogues that are very juvenile and really kind of pointless. Whatever action is thrown into the mix is too little, too uninteresting and too far between to help move the plot along. That would have been fine if the book had some substance, something to keep the reader engaged on either intellectual or emotional level, but there really isn't anything there. I didn't care one bit about any of the characters, least of all Violet (the clone), who is, for the most part, talked about and not present in person. The conflict between those pro and anti cloning movement took the backseat to silly teenage interactions. And, most of all, the moral and ethical aspects of cloning itself weren't explored at all.
Overall, while certainly readable, Falls The Shadow is rather forgettable and uninspired. It's not the worst Science Fiction I have ever read, but it isn't really a story I'll be thinking about or returning to in the future. It's merely pleasant enough to kill a few hours on a long Fall evening.
On a side note, if you're looking for a good Science Fiction novel revolving around the subject of DNA manipulation and "growing" humans in laboratories, I recommend The Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell or Lost Girl by Sangu Mandana. They are both more thought-provoking takes on the ethical and moral aspects of cloning, as well as what it means to be human.