Sunday, September 21, 2014

Perfected by Kate Jarvik Birch

She came from one of the best kennels in the country, and four years of training have prepared her to be the perfect pet - except she is not.  In appearance she is a perfect miniature human, barely five feet tall and bred to be beautiful, and trained to be talented, graceful, and obedient.  Named Ella by her new family she thought she knew about the world of people and her role as a pampered pet, but Ella quickly realises that something is not quite right in the home of Congressman Gibbs.  

As she settles into the family home and tries to find her place, Ella learns that she is not their first pet, and that something went wrong - but no one will tell her what it is.  The Congressman's wife seems distant and almost cold, making comments Ella doesn't understand and talking about what happened before with the other pet, but not explaining what she means.  Their daughter Ruby accepts Ella with excitement and hope, and their son Penn seems determined to ignore her - at first.  The more time Ella spends in the real world, the more she comes to realise that she is not prepared for the world, that there are too many hidden meanings and swirling secrets that seem just out of her reach. 

The world is a confusing and scary place, and it seems as though Ella is a pawn for everyone around her.  She seems the perfect example of a pet, and the perfect pet for the Congressman to own - after all he is one of the people who supported the law that made it legal for people to won pets like Ella.  She also seems the perfect victim, needing to be rescued from her fate as a pet by the people who feel it is wrong to own another human - no matter how much they have been changed (or not) through genetics.  Ella also finds herself a victim of her own self, her growing desires toward Penn, and her inherent naiveté from the way she has been raised. 

It seems as though Ella is not the pampered and well cared for pet she thought she would be, she is instead an object to be owned and controlled, a non-entity with no rights and nowhere to turn.  With the fates seeming to work against her, and her increasing feelings for Penn growing, it is inevitable that Ella eventually finds herself facing a pivotal point in time where everything will change - it is just a matter of how much.

Perfected is a mind-blowing read that stays with you long after you have turned the last page and closed the book.  One simple premise carries the story, in the future the wealthy and powerful can buy a pet - a genetically modified human that is delicate and petite, trained to be talented, and perfect.  It may be a simple premise, but the implications are far from simple - the most in your face being do we have the right to own a genetically modified human?  Is this simply another form of slavery, and from the hints dropped in the story they are not treated solely as a pet, there are sexual references which imply the pets are subjected to sexual advances from their owners.  What makes this a heart breaking glimpse of the future rather that a torrid or cynical glance is that we see the world through Ella's eyes - we make the discoveries alongside her and share in her shock, horror, and despair.

I have the feeling I am misquoting somewhat, but the concept of pets makes me think about Jurassic Park, where one of the team say "we were so busy wondering if we could that we didn't stop to think if we should".  That sentiment is what I carried through the novel, the pets are not significantly different to the rest of the cast, they are simply portrayed as property and that is how they are treated.  It may or may not have been her intention, but Kate Jarvik Birch has created what could be the next required reading text for teenagers, a modern replacement for books like Lord of the flies, Animal farm, or even Z for Zachariah.  While on the surface this is an engaging and engrossing book, on a deeper level it is an examination of what it means to be human, and what we may face in the future if we are not careful.  There are themes of excess and greed, romance, coming of age, and a challenging of the idea of what the wealthy are entitled to do with their money and how far is too far.

This is not a read for younger teens, while there is nothing overtly graphic there is enough information to leave the reader with unsettling thoughts and feelings - younger teens may not be equipped to deal with these issues and emotions (unless they have an adult they can talk freely with about such issues).  This is a fascinating read that blends together a powerful novel in its own right, and a complex read with lots of different levels that make you face what it truly means to be human.  Highly recommended, but with the caveat of being highly recommended to older teens.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

No comments:

Post a Comment