Friday, July 8, 2011

Nobel Genes, by Rune Michaels (2010)

I read this after having read Michaels' first book, Genesis Alpha. That book still haunts me. The ethical dilemmas Michaels presents chilled me and has caused me to think carefully about whether or not I should recommend the book to younger teens. I had my son (21 years old) read it and he agrees that 6th-8th graders might not be mature enough to handle the subject matter.

Nobel Genes is nearly equally challenging, but in a different way. The main character, who is never given a name, is caring for his mentally ill mother. She has told him that he was conceived with a sperm donation from a Nobel Prize winner. He has grown up with a poster about the Nobel Prize framed in his room and searching the pages of a book about the Nobel Prize winners for an image of his father.

We watch as his mother becomes more and more disabled and the care he has to provide increases. I don't want to say more--it would spoil the book.

This is a compelling book probably again best for more mature teens. It is recommended for grades 6-12 with a Lexile of 940, but the topics and issues are emotionally challenging.

Not everyone appreciates Michaels magical realism has put off some reviewers. I think Michaels could have resolved the plot issues without resorting to the use of this technique, but it is a part of her style. I appreciate the genre and do not fault her for using it.

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