Author: Jennifer Rush
Series: Altered Series
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: January 1st, 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Adventure
When you can’t trust yourself, who can you believe?
Everything about Anna’s life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There’s Nick, Cas, Trev . . . and Sam, who has stolen Anna’s heart. When the Branch decides it’s time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape, killing the agents sent to retrieve them.
Anna is torn between following Sam or staying behind in the safety of her everyday life. But her father pushes her to flee, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs. There’s just one problem. Sam and the boys don’t remember anything before living in the lab—not even their true identities.
Now on the run, Anna soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they’re both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away.
I have a very bad habit of choosing books by their covers (reading the summary on the back of the book is optional, in this case). And when it comes to Altered, how could I resist? Despite having purchased it simply due to its mesmerizing cover, I luckily tremendously enjoyed it, unlike some prior similar situations that ended rather poorly and have resulted in the vast majority of my one star reviews.
Dad wouldn’t tell me what the program tested for, despite my repeated questioning. When I’d first found the lab, it was all I could think about. What were four boys doing in our basement? Where were their parents? How long had they been down there? Dad knew exactly how much information to give to feed my curiosity and keep me quiet. I knew about the Branch, of course. But even though I knew who ran the program, I still didn’t know why.
Altered was a fairly quick read – I finished it within 48 hours and found that I could read one hundred pages in a little under an hour and a half. The plot was action packed from the very first page and caused my pulse to race and my palms to sweat on more than one occasion. There are plenty of guns, fist-fights, and betrayals to keep any reader on their toes (not to mention all of the shirtless guys). The premise of the novel remained shrouded in mystery and untruths for the majority of the book, contributing significantly to capturing reader attention. The second I became confident that I finally understood what was going on, the plot would take an unexpected twist, plunging me once more into darkness. I still don’t think I have complete knowledge of what transpired prior to the start of the book, but I would assume that more of this is revealed in later books in the series.
The only downside I noted was the characters, particularly the “boys” – Nick, Cas, Trev, and Sam. They served as central characters throughout the book, but there was minimal character development along the way. While bits and pieces of each boy’s past were gradually revealed, readers never had an opportunity to truly get to know each of them individually. Instead, their shared experiences and lack of distinct personalities caused them to blend together slightly and act as one large unit rather than as individuals. Lastly, Anna was extremely naive – she never questioned anything, despite growing up with four teenagers locked in her basement for “experimentation.” She was too fast to trust those around her, and it ended up coming back to haunt her.
I loved the interactions between each of the characters, demonstrating the variety of relationships that had formed. The boys had an excellent sense of camaraderie and never failed to stand up for one another, regardless of whether it meant taking a bullet for someone. Anna reached out to each of the boys, both before and after they escaped from the lab, in an attempt to get to know them and aid them in uncovering clues about their pasts.
The romance was sappy, boardering on cheesy. Anna develops a puppy dog crush on Sam, constantly fawning over him without ever realizing how disinterested he truly seemed toward her. But, as the book progresses, they kiss several times and all of this is completely forgotten. While it could have been a bit smoother and less cliche in this book, I think their relationship has the potential to improve significantly throughout the remainder of the trilogy. I’m also curious to see if any of the other guys find themselves girlfriends in the final two books, especially due to their limited exposure to the other sex during the time they spent in cells in Anna’s basement.
I certainly wouldn’t classify Altered as a dystopian novel – it doesn’t take place in a futuristic society with a controlling government that so little resembles those of the modern world. Instead, it is set in present-day America and is simply infused with several, albeit limited, sci-fi references, such as the extraordinary strength and finesse possessed by the boys. All in all, there were minimal other sci-fi components, resulting in a realistic book with relatable characters.
Overall, I immediately fell in love with the adventure laden plot and the veiled secrets that served as the basis for the novel. While not all of the loose ends were tied up at the conclusion of the book, I’m fairly confident that they will be elaborated upon in later books. The kick-ass heroine, attractive group of guys, and the collection of twists and turns captivated me throughout the entire book, making me very reluctant to put it down. Despite a few minor flaws, I think the remaining books in the series will be able to correct these and will present additional character growth. The book seemed to be a cross between the Maximum Ride series and the Darkest Minds trilogy, so I would definitely recommend Altered to anyone who enjoyed both or either of those series. And now I think it’s time to head to the bookstore in search of the next book in the trilogy!