Author: S. A. Bodeen
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Age: JUV/YA 13+
Mason is your average teenage boy, he’s a sophomore in high school, plays football, & is learning to drive. What sets him apart however is a huge scar on the side of his face from a dog attack when he was five. He’s never met his Dad, the only information Mason has on him is a badly taped video of him reading The Runaway Bunny, including a shot of a blue butterfly tattoo on his arm but not his face. Everything Mason knows about his life is about to change.
Mason’s Mom works at the local old folk’s home called Haven of Peace. Their small town of Melby Falls, WA is run & paid for by a big scientific plant on top of the hill overlooking the town. The company is called TroDyn and as far as Mason is concerned it’s bad news. His Mom has a mysterious past associated with the company and Mason is about to find out all the answers and then some.
One night while visiting his Mom at work he meets a group of “brain damaged” teenagers. Mason is instantly attracted to one beautiful girl. It’s not long before the two teens & Mason’s best friend Jack end up in trouble & on the run away from Haven of Peace. It turns out the girl & the others on her floor aren’t Brain dead vegetables after all. They are part of a TroDyn experiment to help save the world from apocalyptic famine.
Mason & the girl who we find out is named Laila escape, leaving Jack in safe hands at home & make it to Portland. Laila can only remember strange little bits of info from before she suffered a “traumatic brain injury” Mason is 100% sure the mystery girl & the people following them have something to do with TroDyn. In Portland they meet up with a woman named Dr. Emerson, she is giving a book talk about her new book on apocalyptic famine and the future of the human race as we know it. She used to work for TroDyn so Mason & Laila confront her but they aren’t ready for what she has to tell them.
Let’s have a little biology lesson…Most animals including humans are heterotrophic which means we need food & water to live because we can’t produce our own. But imagine a world where every living thing was autotrophic or self-sustaining. Weird right? Some plants & animals like sea nudibranchs already are thanks to evolution. But think about humans being able to sustain life much like plants do, through photosynthesis & mutualistic feeding. That’s what TroDyn scientists have been working on for almost 20 years. Dr. Emerson reveals the whole operation to Mason.
Laila is actually an autotrophic human being, she doesn’t need food or water to survive. Scientists at TroDyn and other interested parties gave up their children at a very young age so they could be experiments in this new technology. At a young age the kids, like Laila, are introduced to photosynthetic cells that are found in most plants, and they are put into their bodies to replace their blood & body makeup. That was the first phase of the experiment & it worked. But as the kids started to grow up & become teenagers, their bodies were metabolizing the substance to quickly. The scientists had to find a way to keep them alive, together, and surviving off the substance. Therefore they had to become permanently attached to machines that give them a constant feed of the organic material. That’s where The Greenhouse comes into play.
The Greenhouse is a building in the TroDyn compound where all the autotrophic kids are individually hooked up to all the life sustaining material they need. This is phase two of the experiment. Laila was part of a test group stationed at the Haven of Peace to see how well they would do off the direct lines. It turns out that must like plants the autotrophic kids can sustain life as long as they are together. Because of this, by the time to pair finds Dr. Emerson, Laila is very sick and they must get back to TroDyn before it’s too late.
Mason’s Mom is worried upon their return because of her mysterious past with the company. But she is willing to help regardless. Once inside Mason meets the man behind this whole operation, he calls himself The Gardener. It turns out Mason’s Mom was hiding a lot from him but with good reason. The Gardener, Solomon, we learn he’s named, is Mason’s father…the one from the video. The blue butterfly tattoo is the same one Laila has, it marks them as autotrophs. Solomon first performed the same experiments on himself. But they ended badly for him & he is now permanently in a wheelchair, hooked up to the organic material feed. His partner, a woman named Eve, is trying to kill him by poisoning him and plans to sell their work to the military.
It turns out that Mason’s Mom used to work for TroDyn as a scientist when she was pregnant with Mason. She left so he wouldn’t become part of the experiment. But not before creating the technology keeping Solomon & the kids alive on their feeds. Luckily Mason comes to the rescue, saving his parents from Eve before it’s too late. But what about the kids in The Greenhouse? They have to be transferred to another facility until the third phase of the experiment will allow them to fully function on their own. Before leaving Mason promises Laila they will be together some day, but how?
Likes- I LOVE S.A. Bodeen as an author, I’ve read almost all of her books & never been disappointed.
This book is really cool, slightly scientific, & futuristic but…I think it’s almost too real, could this really happen in the not too distant future?
Dislikes- I knew the Gardener would be Mason’s Dad pretty early. Younger kids might not make the connection but as soon as Laila’s tattoo was spotted I knew.