cover image The Gardener

The Gardener

S.A. Bodeen, Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-312-37016-9

Bodeen follows her riveting debut novel, The Compound (2008), with another high-concept thriller. Fifteen-year-old Mason, a “hulking, quiet guy” with a disfiguring facial scar, dreams of majoring in biology at Stanford. To do so, he’ll have to hitch his star to TroDyn, the local bioengineering firm known for its support of future scientists. But Mason’s alcoholic mother violently objects to his applying for TroDyn’s internship, and Mason’s father is out of the picture. When Mason discovers a secret that his mother’s been hiding, he confronts her at her job at a nursing home (owned by TroDyn) and learns that she cares for four catatonic teenagers, one of whom—a scared, stunningly beautiful girl—awakens and escapes, with Mason’s help. All paths lead to TroDyn and a secret project that involves creating autotrophs—organisms that can create their own food, a theoretical solution to coming world famine. A preponderance of coincidences and a too-tidy epilogue mar a fast-paced, meaty read that asks readers to consider the costs of science overstepping its bounds, even in pursuit of the noblest goals. Ages 12–up. (June)