Author: Jennifer Rush
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages: 323 (hard cover)
Advertised Age Level: Ages 12-17
Age and Grade of Main Character(s): 17
Language: use of the “F” word
Drug/Alcohol Use: none, although characters receive experimental drugs to alter their DNA and erase their memories
Violence: extreme violence, gun shootouts, characters are shot and killed, fighting
Social Issues: government conspiracy, genetically altering people
Suggested Movie Grade: PG-13
Premise: Anna’s life is centered around the farmhouse she shares with her father and the laboratory in the basement, where four boys are kept behind glass walls. A shadowy organization called The Branch has genetically altered the boys – Nick, Cas, Trev and Sam – to enhance their physical and mental abilities, although Anna doesn’t know the reasons why. She helps her father collect data and administer the boys’ medications while at the same time befriending them. Her feelings for Sam have developed into something stronger, and she often wonders what would happen if she ever released Sam from his prison.
One day agents from the Branch arrive to take the boys away. Determined to escape, Sam attacks and kills many of the agents. Wounded in the shootout, Anna’s father begs Sam to take Anna with him and to protect her from the Branch at all costs. The five young people set out on a mission to recover clues that will help explain what has been done to the boys and for what reasons. Since all four of them suffer from amnesia, solving the mystery that is their existence is even more difficult, especially with gun-toting agents hot on their heels at every turn. As the clues are solve, Anna’s own life begins to become more mysterious. And her feelings for Sam grow stronger even if she isn’t sure she can trust him.
Potential Points of Concern:
Very intense portrayals of violence. Sam and the other boys are expert marksmen who shoot and kill agents in self defense.
Many characters are wounded. Anna engages in several physical fights.
Intense depiction of being pursued by people who want to capture Anna and the boys.
The premise of this story is based on the machinations of a secret agency who holds boys against their will and then later sells them to people as super-soldiers capable of carrying out dangerous missions.
Age Appropriateness: 13 +