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.