Blood Ties by Sophie McKenzie

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Blood Ties by Sophie McKenzie

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: An exciting thriller that raises contemporary questions about genetic research and age old ones about the search to belong. It's a thought-provoking read that will be enjoyed by any teenager interested in what exactly it is that makes us who we are.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: July 2008
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Childrens Books
ISBN: 1847382754

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Theo comes from a single parent family and lives in a very modest home. Yet he goes to an expensive private boys school and has a bodyguard. Theo's mother won't say why that it is, but it's pretty plain that it all has something to do with his father who Theo believes died when he was just a baby. Rachel lives in the shadow of her dead sister Rebecca. Rebecca died as a teenager and was everything Rachel is not: bright, lively, sporty, and beautiful. Rebecca lives a shrinking life - she shrinks from her mother's endless comparisons to Rebecca, from the bullies at school, and even from her own reflection in the mirror.

And suddenly, everything changes for these two adolescents. Theo discovers his father is still alive and that Rachel holds the key to his whereabouts. And when they are attacked by RAGE - the Righteous Army Against Genetic Engineering - at Rachel's school disco, they find themselves on the run and make some shocking discoveries about what - and who - they really are.

I really enjoyed Blood Ties. It's a fast-paced thriller, but for once it's not all about boys - or girls trying to be like boys. Theo and Rachel are both very strong characters, and while Rachel does grow more independent over the course of the story - including getting to learn the obligatory martial arts high kicks - she is always a girl, with a girl's interests; what she looks like, who will love her, how to build bridges at times of conflict. Theo's life lessons are much more about learning to control his anger and to consider other people.

These coming-of-age themes are, though, an underpinning of the novel's main thrust, which raises contemporary questions about genetic research and cloning. And what readers really take from it is that the boundaries between good and evil are blurred, nothing is black and white, and blame truly lies in extremism. The book has twin baddies - Elijah, the genetic manipulator, and RAGE, the militant protest group. Reading about Theo and Rachel, two very credible characters, caught between them illustrates perfectly that extremism and entrenched position does the most damage of all.

Existentially, the book will appeal greatly to teenagers because it also asks the oldest questions of all - Who am I? What made me? Can I change it?

My thanks to the nice people at Simon & Schuster for sending the book.

Younger readers might enjoy the high-tech take on genetic manipulation in Joe Craig's books about Jimmy Coates. Older readers will enjoy the questions posed in Being by Kevin Brooks.

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