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Formats
Paperback Details
  • 02/2022
  • 978-1639882205
  • 246 pages
  • $17.99
Dustin Grinnell
Author
The Empathy Academy
In 2032, biotech entrepreneur Sonja Woodward has created a genetic test that can identify a predisposition in teenagers for unethical behavior before they reach adulthood. Those who test positive are sent to Woodward Academy on Nantucket Island. Montgomery Hughes, a high school senior, is among the first students sent to the school. But Monty is there under false pretenses. He switched his test result with another student’s and is using an alias to hide his identity. Haunted by his disgraced father’s scandal, Monty is convinced he’s a bad seed. At Woodward, Monty discovers a dark side to Sonja’s ethics-intervention school. Students who don’t respond are treated in a secret lab with a technology that alters genes associated with empathy: the equivalent of a high-tech lobotomy. When Monty’s identity is revealed, Sonja’s gene-editing “cure” offers her the perfect opportunity for punishment.
Reviews
Grinnell’s (Without Limits) thought-provoking thriller balances action and contemplation. High school senior Monty Hughes is concerned he may one day be like his father, who fraudulently promoted a miracle cancer drug based on bogus data. As a preventative measure, Monty sneaks into Woodward Academy, an experimental summer school for students who have a genetic predisposition for unethical behavior. As he struggles to come to terms with his father’s actions, Monty begins to realize that Woodward Academy may not be what it seems. Faced with challenges both inside and out, Monty must discover who he is and who he will become.

The book’s Nantucket setting offers an atmospheric oceanside backdrop to Woodward Academy, and Grinnell skilly weaves it into the story with exciting scenes on the water and subtle, but meaningful, nautical references that symbolize Monty’s growth. Monty’s deep desire to be an ethical person often makes his actions somewhat predictable, but nevertheless, Grinnell tests his character in surprising ways. Similarly, some secondary characters are simple archetypes–most of Monty’s classmates are defined only by their vices, and the story’s antagonist has the feel of a supervillain– but others, like his teacher Dr. Reid, face tough choices and learn from their mistakes.

Monty’s father is also a complex and evolving creation, and his relationship with Monty reflects both characters’ difficult personal journeys. It also prompts readers to ponder larger questions even beyond nature versus nurture: What does it mean to be a good person? How should we deal with the faults in ourselves and others? Should we stop loving people if they do bad things? Grinnell widens the lens on these topics by including references to related books and psychological experiments. This story’s action-packed plot will keep readers guessing, and the energy it infuses into the deep questions at its core will keep them thinking.

Takeaway: Students of psychology, philosophy and ethics will appreciate the depth of this exciting thriller

Great for fans of: A.G. Riddle’s The Atlantis Gene, Allison Larkin’s The People We Keep, Mary E. Pearson’s The Adoration of Jenna Fox.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

Formats
Paperback Details
  • 02/2022
  • 978-1639882205
  • 246 pages
  • $17.99

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