BookPage Teen Top Pick, December 2018
The teen years can be taken over by impossible ideals of beauty informed by images of airbrushed bodies that inundate popular media, as well as rigorous college applications that demand impeccable transcripts, off-the-charts test scores and athletic prowess.
As genetic science advances—specifically with the experimental protein known as CRISPR that can “cut” chunks of DNA and essentially edit the strands—and with the rising popularity of plastic surgery among teens, Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful is a chilling, necessary look at a near-future world where the quest for human improvement runs amok.
Structured like the popular sci-fi Netflix series “Black Mirror,” Arwen Elys Dayton’s novel unfolds in a series of six vignettes that each follows a different young protagonist.
In one story reminiscent of Kazuo Ishiguro’s wrenching classic Never Let Me Go, a 15-year-old twin wrestles with allowing the heart of his beloved, dying sister to be fused with his own failing organ in order to create a “super-heart.” Another story examines the societal repercussions of using biomachinery to save gravely injured trauma patients. Those who have had their vital organs and limbs rebuilt become targets of intense scorn and hate crimes, while religious pushback against the procedures spirals violently out control.
We can’t put the proverbial genie back in the bottle in terms of scientific discovery, but as Dayton proves in these thrilling and often poignant stories, we can, and we should, seriously consider the constraints of what makes us human and the dangers of chasing an ideal.