Saturday, February 28, 2009

Book Review: Genesis Alpha by Rune Michaels

Book: Genesis Alpha
Author: Rune Michaels
Published: 2007

Josh has always known that he and Max are more than just brothers. Josh was conceived to save Max's life. They're special. They're a part of each other. He knows his brother best of anybody in the world.

But now Max is accused of a horrific murder. He's innocent, of course, and it's all just a mistake. Except it may not be. When Josh meets the sister of the murdered girl, the evidence mounts until he has no option but to realize that the brother he thought he knew inside-out is a dark and twisted stranger. Now Josh is haunted by the most frightening question of all.

If Max is a murderer, than what does that make him?

Rune Michaels takes a subject already fraught with turmoil, sibling relationships, and adds layer upon layer to it until it becomes a rumination on the very nature and origin of evil. Luckily, the layers never topple over under their own weight. In spite of the quagmire of ethical, emotional, and moral issues at play, this is actually a fast-paced novel that will keep kids turning pages.

One of the most fascinating characters for me was Rachel, the sister of the murdered girl. Storywise, she works in all sorts of interesting ways. Her relationship with her sister mirrors that of Josh's with Max. In addition, she is at Josh's mercy in the same way that Karen was at Max's--yet she is safe, showing that for all Josh's worries, he is not his brother and never could be. And simply put, her pain is raw and compelling. Although an antagonist, she is also Josh's ally and guide as they both wrestle with the pain of losing an adored sibling in very different ways.

I'm going to turn to Albus Dumbledore's immortal words. "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are." This is a book about a boy discovering the terrible truth of those words for himself.

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