The Ones by Daniel Sweren-Becker

Within the first few pages, I knew I was going to have a hard time with The Ones. The author is clearly going for a Message (with a capital M), with every hot topic from Gitmo torture, the Holocaust, racial iniquity in St. Louis, to Dolly the cloned sheep thrown in the mix. There’s no subtlety and because the emphasis is on the soapboxing, there’s little to no character development. This is YA by the numbers: protagonists excluded from mainstream, finding a rebellion, evil and moral-less bad guys, being a speshul snowflake, and hey, a love triangle, too. Honestly, I hate when books throw messages around like a slaps in the face with a wet tuna.

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Story: James and Cody are genetically ‘enhanced’ individuals – part of an experiment that their parents were awarded when the kids were created. Now that most are hitting adulthood/teen years, the backlash has begun. Hate mail, violence, segregation – it is the Holocaust all over again. When Cody is invited into a rebellion movement by clandestine ‘ones’, James is dragged in against his nature. Even with a brother angry/jealous over having to compete with a perfect younger brother, James is trying to avoid the conflict. But slowly and surely, things are going to come to a head against the ones.

The book begins with a torture – we don’t know which character, though. It’s all very ‘Guantanamo’ though, with the torturers feeling justified and the tortured unable to do anything about it. This segues into Cody and James and their deteriorating situation at their school. Of course, the principal is evil and wants them dead, the other students begin to resent them for taking prime football/academic perks, and then there are right wing politicians also out to make laws to segregate them. All under the ‘equality’ act, of course, because there isn’t a lot of subtlety in author Sweren/Becker’s irony.

I didn’t like any of the characters and they felt very unreal. All were mere caricatures – an amalgamation of various dystopian and YA protagonists all merged together. None of the interactions felt natural and they were both so uptight as to be clearly constructs rather than organic teens. I felt like the book had a set of points written down by the author in advance and then characters/story were created to push those points. Of course, the male character is grounded and cautious and the female character is moody and overemotional. Because yes, this was written by a male.

It was hard not to get bored, to be honest, by the 20% mark. The eye rolling evil right wing ‘haters’ were just silly and their motivations appeared to be about malice rather than misguided or misinformed ideology (otherwise known as ‘nuances’). This is definitely a book about hating right wing politics/leanings.

Clearly, this was not my type of book. I don’t like getting hit upside the head with an author’s manifesto masquerading as a story. I’d rather get my agendas on the non fiction side than not-so-subtly hidden in a YA near-future novel. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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