Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Review: Juniper Crescent by Tony Graff

Darren Vor Tallen is heartbroken when his beloved wife dies in childbirth, and he vows to give his baby daughter the best life possible to make up for her lack of a mother. As young Oksanya grows, she is diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, a disease which keeps her from doing the thing she wants most in the world - run. Now a senior in high school, she participates in track as much as possible, but her leg braces hold her back, and she's frustrated that she can't do more. Darren is equally frustrated seeing his daughter suffer, remembering his promise to do everything he could for her.
When Darren is approached by representatives from the Isis Foundation, he can hardly believe what they're telling him. They have taken DNA from animals and placed it in human bodies, and that animal DNA has given those people a second chance at life, changing the human molecular structure and removing diseased portions of their cells. The scientists believe they can help Oksanya, and Darren is sorely tempted. He shares the idea with his daughter, who weighs all the pros and cons, and decides to go for it. Her animal of choice? A fast runner, of course - a cheetah.

The surgery is a success. Not only does Oksanya feel strong and capable, but soon she can run faster than she ever dreamed. This miracle comes with a price, though - she is kicked off the track team for having an unfair advantage, and soon, the cheetah's DNA takes over even more of her body - she develops spots on her skin. Her community doesn't understand her or any of the other Isis patients, and they must fight off attacks when they leave their homes. Oksanya must learn how to defend herself, and in so doing, she must learn to balance the parts of her that are animal with the parts that are human.

Juniper Crescent was a real think-piece for me. We have a father desperate to spare his daughter from suffering. We have a girl who just wants to be normal. They make a choice that will not only cause suffering, but will keep her from being anything but normal, and society persecutes them for their decision. Those around them react in fear without even attempting to understand, and the Isis patients lose friends and family all because of prejudice and ignorance. As I read, I couldn't help but draw comparisons to other situations we face in the world today - we sometimes react with fear when we hear of something new, and instead of learning about it, we put up walls to protect ourselves instead of reaching out to educate ourselves. We fall into this trap far too often.

This book was written for a national audience, but the author is LDS and there are no themes that would offend an LDS reader. The editing left a lot to be desired, but the story concept was amazing and I stayed glued to it the whole way through. Juniper Crescent is the first in a series that will follow the Isis patients on their journeys, and I can't wait to read the next one.

1 comment:

Anna Maria Junus said...

Sounds like an interesting read! It does make you think. What are you willing to pay to get what you want? What if you don't know what the consequences are? For Oksanya is having spots that set you apart better or worse than having leg braces that set you apart.

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