100-Character Breakdown: An emotional sci-fi page-turner full of deep characters and an intense, engaging survival story.
Genre: Young adult, sci-fi
Publisher: Putnam (June 2015)
Blending sci-fi and an emotional survival story, Debra Dockter’s Deadly Design follows 16-year-old Kyle as he tries to discover why some kids — including his brother Connor — are dying of sudden heart attacks around their 18th birthdays. Despite the two-year age difference, Kyle and Connor are twins, conceived in vitro and carried separately. But the twins couldn’t be more different. Connor is a star athlete and student, but Kyle would rather stay in the basement playing video games than try to catch up to his perfect twin. Then Connor dies, and Kyle discovers that all of the children conceived at the Genesis Innovations Laboratory are dying at 18 too. Kyle may have less than two years left to live.
This engaging page-turner layers twist on top of twist as Kyle’s fast-paced search for a way to survive plays out. Grief is a focal point of this book, and Dockter portrays it with finesse. As Kyle narrates his story, the effect his losses have on him are evident, impacting him in both minor and major ways. The characters around him, all built carefully and with depth, experience grief in their own ways, providing a multifaceted exploration of this theme. Alongside the theme of grief, Dockter’s novel deals with the ethics of genetic manipulation and the influence of ideals of perfection. The children made through the Genesis Innovations Laboratory are all seemingly perfect in their appearance, intelligence, and athleticism; Deadly Design explores the impact this perfect ideal has on others and how it pressures those viewed as perfect. Mixed in with these themes and the page-turning plot, Dockter weaves in romance and other subplots. This layered novel has a wide appeal. Readers of this captivating debut won’t be able to put it down.