This is a complex SF book for teens, but written at an adult level. While the characters could have been drawn even a little deeper, with more understanding of what they wanted, etc., that was really part of the plot – they didn’t have any thoughts, feelings, or plans, or weren’t supposed to. Their lives, as genetically enhanced people, were of extreme lowborn, GENs. They were shunned by the other castes, and were treated as many blacks were it the south before the Civil Rights Act. Separate sectors for living, can’t touch a higher caste, etc. The author was fascinated by the idea of genetically engineered slaves, and the book began in a very different direction as a screenplay. Then, years later, she decided to tweak it around a lot, make it YA (she writes for adults), and used the idea of India’s caste system. The premise is that the earth became messed up, and they decided to leave, at least some of them. They grouped the people into workers, like the engineers, the planners (sound familiar?), and the officials, etc, and then the low manual workers. When they arrived at the planet of their destination, the elders decided that the system worked and they would keep it. The plot is a little thin – and I can’t give it away, but suffice it to say, there are good and bad on all levels. It follows the life of Kayla, genetically programmed to have superior arm strength, who is sent to be a caregiver to an old high-caste man, a trueborn, at fifteen, when her assignment is chosen for her. It’s a great description of a world, a religion, and the rules that must follow from such a caste system. I’m hoping there is more, so that we can explore the planet itself, that they are on.
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