Written by Kate Messner
This includes a fascinating what-if idea. What if gene therapy were used for the scientists’ own purposes? Can they get away with it? This is a very exciting and often scary story. Fifth grade readers will be fascinated by what kids their age can do when necessary, providing them an opportunity to increase their literacy skills and learn a bit about genetics, neurology, and bird watching.
Twelve-year-old Cat is trying to recover from a head injury suffered in a fall from a bird watching platform. She is constantly dizzy, headache-y, and irritable. Not at all like her former self. In desperation, her parents send her to clinic in Florida, which specializes in her type of injury. At first, everything seems normal, but Cat soon smells a rat. One girl hasn’t been seen for days, and Cat overhears bits of conversations between the doctors that make her suspicious. A boy has been seen, but his entire personality has been changed. Together with three other patients, Cat figures out they’re part of a horrible experiment to change their brains. The kids plot to escape just as the doctors plan to tell their parents they’re dead and move the experiments to Russia. Airboats, wildfires, and alligators all play a role.
The Author’s Note discusses the science behind the idea, including the Manhattan Project team and ongoing gene research. The author’s website (www.katemessner.com) gives more details and contains a blog. The publisher’s website (www.bloomsbury.com) provides more information on the author and the book itself.