11:00 am EDT, August 13, 2015

‘Deadly Design’ book review: So gripping, it’s hard to put down

When it comes to increasing humanity's chances of survival, how far is too far?

Debra Dockter’s Deadly Design has so many intriguing twists and turns that it’s impossible to guess them all. This is a sci-fi novel like no other.

Deadly Design book coverSixteen year old Kyle McAdams and his twin brother were born two years apart. They were genetically engineered and born at different times in order to increase their odds of survival. Being the first-born, Connor’s the perfect one while Kyle stays in the shadows as an afterthought. Had they been born at the same time, things may have been different. Now, they’ll never know.

However, when Connor drops dead of a heart attack on his 18th birthday, Kyle learns that there are more genetically modified kids out there and that they’re all in danger. Jolted into caring about what happens to him and the people around him, Connor must race against his biological clock and find out what exactly was done to kids like him that keeps them from living past age 18. What he finds out is unlike anything he could have ever imagined.

‘Deadly Design’ book review

Though it starts out a bit slow, Deadly Design becomes one of those kinds of books that is impossible to put down. Between the interesting and unique plot points and the speed at which events unfold, there isn’t a dull moment in this novel past the halfway point. (That is not to say that the first half of the novel is dull, because it definitely is not.)

The synopsis of Deadly Design describes the story as a cross between The Maze Runner and If I Stay, which is pretty accurate. The storytelling unfolds in a way where pieces of important information are revealed one at a time and nothing is quite as it seems. And yet, every part of the mystery that unfolds packs an emotional punch, right up until the very end. While the extent of genetic modification in the novel is not yet possible in the real world, the emotional depth of Deadly Design makes it feel not only real but like it could happen to anyone.

Though the revelations of the kids’ genetic modifications (and the reasoning behind the modifications) are shocks in themselves, there’s a striking “OMG!”-sort of point about 75% through the novel. It’s not a giant plot twist, but it’s a shocking event that demonstrates just how skillful Dockter is with her writing and making her readers invest in her characters. It’s one of those moments that puts the reader in the main character’s shoes, stripping away any omniscient benefits the reader had leading up to that point. In essence, the reader is just as in the dark and scared at that moment as Kyle.

Another example of Dockter’s skills is the way in which she makes a relatively unlikable character into a reluctant hero worth rooting for. At the beginning of the novel, Kyle has almost no personality. He’s simply negative all the time and passes judgement on everyone. But as the story evolves, so does Kyle. He’s no knight, but Dockter fashions him into an “everyman” who just happens to have a chance of saving those around him. Dockter’s characterization is so good that it’s hard to determine the point at which the reader fully sympathizes with Kyle.

Fans of suspense and science fiction will truly enjoy Deadly Design. It’s a thrilling ride from start to finish that will keep readers constantly turning the page to find out what happens next. Readers will want to read Deadly Design in just one sitting because it’s just so hard to put down.

Deadly Design by Debra Dockter (try saying that five times fast!) is available now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and your local independent bookstore. Oh, and don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads “to read” list!


Will you be picking up a copy of ‘Deadly Design’?


Related: ‘Illusionarium’ book review: A fun steampunk sci-fi adventure

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon

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