When you can’t trust yourself, who can you believe?
Everything about Anna’s life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There’s Nick, Cas, Trev . . . and Sam, who’s stolen Anna’s heart. When the Branch decides it’s time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape, killing the agents sent to retrieve them.
Anna is torn between following Sam or staying behind in the safety of her everyday life. But her father pushes her to flee, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs. There’s just one problem. Sam and the boys don’t remember anything before living in the lab—not even their true identities.
Now on the run, Anna soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they’re both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away.
I first came across Altered over the summer on a Waiting on Wednesday post written by fellow UK book blogger Lynsey (read her fantastic blog, Narratively Speaking here). The synopsis immediately captured my attention and I added Altered to my 2013 wish list. To be honest I forgot all about the book until perusing iTunes for my latest audiobook selection the striking cover caught my attention and tugged at my memory. Realising that I’d come across one of my wish list reads on audiobook, and that it was available almost two months before the UK hardback release, I immediately downloaded this intriguing debut.
Not only is the cover striking enough remind me of my intention to read Altered, almost five months after my initial interest, but it also represents the book perfectly. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the cover features a beautiful male torso but beyond the eye candy (some ladies like abs, I am definitely a back girl!), the positioning of “Sam” within the cover, facing away with his face only partially visible, hints and the mysterious nature of his character. The branches, which cover the majority of the cover, are representative of the tattoo which covers the majority of Sam’s back and plays a pivotal role in the storyline and the uncovering of Sam’s earlier life. Even the disjointed lettering, represents the Branch’s manipulation, the incompleteness of the characters through the loss of their memories and the puzzle the group will need to piece together.
I can’t go any further without confessing that I actually disliked the reader of this audiobook. I found her voice irritating with its unnatural, robotic like cadence. However that didn’t stop me being totally absorbed in the storyline and finishing it in less than 48hrs – the book is just that good.
Fully engaged from the very off by the intriguing set up described in the synopsis, I couldn’t wait to find out just why Anna’s dad had four boys in the basement and what plans the sinister sounding “Branch” had in store for them. The adrenaline fuelled cat and mouse chase, the unraveling of the characters mysterious past, unanticipated twists and a fledgling romance ensured that my attention was held until the very last second.
I enjoyed meeting all of Rush’s characters, not a difficult task when presented with four super hot, intelligent and protective boys, each with their own distinctive characters, but Anna was by far my favorite.
Initially unsure if we would get along, Anna appeared to be either especially naive or self-serving, never truly questioning the boys captivity and only considering their freedom in relation to her own romantic fantasies of Sam. As the story progressed I realised that home schooled and socially isolated Anna was just as much a prisoner of the lab as the boys. Finally free of the farmhouse and flung out in to the world, Anna’s character development truly begins.
Although I very much enjoyed the sci-fi elements of Altered, it was Anna’s naturalness and realism of reactions, which made the book for me. I began to bond with her character when her eyes are finally opened and she is horrified to discover just what the boys are truly capable of, she doesn’t just unquestioningly follow her crush’s pretty back out of the lab and away from the only life she has ever known. I loved that although physically inferior to these paragons of GM perfection, she determinedly holds her own, winded and sweaty, fighting along side them and running ten paces behind them.
The first of a series, I steeled myself for the inevitable agonizing, cliffhanger, but it never materialised. Instead, to my immense relief and satisfaction, Rush brought the story to a close beautifully, tying up this first installment, while leaving me keen to learn more about the sinister activities of the Branch , and spend more time with Anna and the boys.
Verdict: A fabulous, fast paced debut. I can’t wait for book two, although I think that I will pass on the audiobook in favor of pre-ordering the hardback.
The UK hardback of Altered will be published on the 28th of February by Little Brown Young Readers.
Reviewed by Caroline