When fifteen year old Mason sneaks into the nursing home where his mother works, he's not expecting to find a room full of comatose teenagers. And he's definitely not expecting to accidentally wake one of them. Least of all a beautiful, super-strong girl who doesn't know her own name.
But having woken her, he can't just leave her there. She's afraid; scared that someone called The Gardener will find her. And besides, something feels really wrong about the place. Something that seems to be linked to TroDyn Industries, a local scientific research centre.
So they take off. But The Gardener won't be willing to let them go that easily...
The Gardener is the kind of story that takes off running almost as soon as the scene is set, plunging the reader headlong into a page-turning frenzy as Mason and the mysterious Laila make their desperate bid for escape. An exciting fusion of the sci-fi and thriller genres, The Gardener explores the question of just how far we should go to ensure the survival of our species in the face of a deteriorating environment. Posing the all-too-feasible dilemma of what will happen to the human race once we're no longer able to feed our rising population, Bodeen imagines that the shady TroDyn Industries are in the process of developing the technology to overcome this threat to humanity - but at what cost?
In Mason, Bodeen has created a believable and likeable male protagonist that both male and female readers will relate to. Facially scarred by a dog attack at a young age, he’s adjusted to others’ initial reactions towards him and has a tendency to play the hero. In his words, being responsible for someone else's happy ending makes him happy. As in debut novel The Compound, Bodeen really gives the reader food for thought about the way a boy's sense of identity is influenced by his relationship with his father. It's something that doesn't get a lot of attention in young adult fiction, and once more Bodeen explores the theme with insight and sensitivity in The Gardener.
The Gardener is a fast, thrilling read that leaves the reader with plenty to think about without ever compromising its breathtaking pace or filmic approach to storytelling. It's a book that raises intriguing questions about what makes us human, and the role that science and evolution have to play in the future of our planet. Although it seems for part of the story that we're heading for a predictable conclusion, Bodeen impresses with a few class twists that leave things on a pleasingly ambigious note. S. A. Bodeen is fast becoming my author of choice for action-based stories that push the boundaries of YA subject matter. A plot-driven firecracker of a story that’s perfect for reluctant readers and those looking for a fast-paced thriller with a sci-fi slant.
Out: May 25th 2010, US
Many thanks to Macmillan for providing a review copy of this book.