Michelle was born into the Institute’s eugenics program, where doctors breed people like livestock. One powerful man decides which children grow up, and which disappear. Culls are dumped in the slum outside Institute walls, and those kids never come back. Michelle has survived every purge, and she’s about to win a luxurious life as a breeder. When her brother and her boyfriend are both mysteriously culled, despite their high scores, she goes over the wall to find them. Alone in the ghetto, she’s in trouble until handsome, streetwise Dillon stakes a claim to her. She’s mortified because the Enhanced see Norms as little more than animals. But the doctor is using the missing boys in a twisted experiment, and she needs Dillon’s help to stop him. Michelle must rescue the boys, but a plague is spreading, the doctor is after her, and Dillon isn’t thrilled to help her find her lost boyfriend.
So what are we waiting for? Here’s my review:
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I like dystopias with convoluted plots where I can’t guess what will happen next, and I like reading different characters’ points of view where everyone has their own agenda. Enhanced kept me entertained and guessing. Although it started slow, the characters developed well, and once Michelle met Dillon, I didn’t want to put the book down. I wish he’d come into the story earlier, but it’s good he didn’t get his own point of view. I hate knowing whether a guy is just attracted to a girl or whether he loves her until the right time.
Characters and plot elements that worked: First, the whole eugenics idea with the creepy doctor; conniving, power-hungry, or abusive parents; Enhanced in general lording it over the Norms while the Enhanced teens are stuck (literally) with experiments and tests to weed out the weak. Second, characterization including Michelle’s progression from crippling fear to still fearful but determined heroine, Seth and Brian venturing into the Warren among gangs and learning to be loyal, good and bad people on both sides, and changing loyalties as disease spreads. Third, the unusual talents of Todd and Jeanette and her conflicting agendas, the triplets, and many others I won’t mention because they’d spoil surprises. Fourth, the author tackled some tough issues and handled them well, including differing social mores among the Enhanced and Norms.
What didn’t work as well: The story direction seemed too random at first, wandering, and the characters’ viewpoints sometimes switched in a chapter labeled as one character. Head-hopping started early on, but friendships and rivalries developed within the Enhanced teens in time to make me care about following them through the slow start in spite of the unexpected point of view switches. Then the seemingly random events came together in an exciting way, a payoff worth waiting for. The other problem was that some genetically guided behavior seemed flawed. The non-bonding concept made sense in leading to casual relationships, but not in a male forming attachments to one girl when another more beautiful and popular was in hot pursuit. Once I read how much destruction took place in the war, I also wondered how any civilian group had maintained enough technology to keep the lights on, let alone do extensive genetic manipulations.
Overall, there were a lot more things I liked than not, including how events snowballed and puzzle pieces came together towards the end. I really liked how Michelle made serious, not minor, mistakes in trying to help, making it feel more realistic when things turned out badly, not all coming up roses or ring around the rosies either. That reminds me of the excellent visuals. I could picture almost all of the book, making me squirm in some scenes. Best of all, the author achieved a full arc in a series book, a rare thing these days. Since Enhanced led into the next book instead of leaving me hanging, I’ll follow the trail wherever it goes. 3.5 stars overall, rounding up to 4 for the social value in spite of some editing problems. This would be a good book for high school reading but not middle school due to content. I was provided a free copy in exchange for an honest review.