Genetically engineered identical twins Kyle and Connor McAdams were born two years apart. Their parents figured it was safer that way, to increase their odds of survival. Connor was born first, paving an impossibly perfect path for Kyle to follow. He was the best at everything—valedictorian, star quarterback, etc. Kyle never thought he’d be able to live up, so he didn’t even try.
But when Connor, eighteen, suddenly drops dead of a heart attack, and Kyle learns of other genetically modified kids who’ve also died on their eighteenth birthdays, he’s suddenly motivated—to save his own life. Like Connor and all the rest, Kyle was conceived at the Genesis Innovations Laboratory, where the mysterious Dr. Mueller conducted experiments on them. The clock’s ticking as Kyle searches for answers: who was Dr. Mueller, really, and what did he do to cause their hearts to stop at eighteen? He must unravel the clues quickly, before he too becomes another perfect, blue-eyed corpse.
I was very quickly sucked into the world of Kyle McAdams. Kyle and Connor are genetically identical twins, but were born two years apart thanks to technology and a scientist named Dr. Muller. Kyle’s parents went to Dr. Muller because they’d struggled with miscarriages, lost a child to spinal muscular atrophy (which ran in the family), and wanted a chance to have a healthy child, which Dr. Muller promised he could guarantee thanks to genetic modification. Learning that there were twins, the parents decided to have them separately to increase their chance of survival. Connor becomes the ultimate popular, successful guy. He’s a record-breaking track star, the quarterback of the football team, and the valedictorian of his graduating class. Everyone adores him, and Kyle has spent his whole life feeling like he can’t possibly live up to his twin’s success. As a result, he’s pushed Kyle away ever since that success began. When they finally make an effort to get to know each other again, Connor dies from a mysterious heart attack the day after his eighteenth birthday. This sends Kyle on a journey to figure out what happened. Kyle soon finds other kids engineered at the same lab who are dying within days of their eighteenth birthday, just like Connor, and more kids who are quickly approaching that birthday, including Kyle. In Deadly Design, Kyle experiences friendship, loss, and deception on his race against the clock.
Deadly Design is very well written. The science fiction elements in the genetic modifications, time limit on life, and more (that I don’t want to give away) were believable and well explained. Debra Dockter’s words tug at your heartstrings the entire time. I felt for Kyle when he was cranky and feeling second best to his older twin and when his brother died and he learned the truth about what kind of future he was facing. My heart broke with his as he lost the friends who had also been modified by Dr. Muller. I was infuriated when someone he trusted with his life betrayed him. The suspense and mystery is woven in and the reader gets to unravel the mystery along with Kyle, which I really enjoyed.
Deadly Design doesn’t focus solely on the race against time to save Kyle’s life. We also get to see what Kyle is going through as a normal teenager: dealing with bullies, falling in love for the first time, his struggle with finding his identity separate from his brother’s. This is what draws the reader in to the story fully. As you get to know Kyle and who he is, you want to know what Dr. Muller did to him and why, and that he is going to get a chance to live a life where he has a real future. Seeing this development is what makes Kyle real and not a 2D character.
My sole complaint would be that many times Kyle seems to act much older than his sixteen years. However, when you’re thrown into such a drastic situation, I think you have to grow up quickly, so it wasn’t detrimental to my enjoyment of the story. As a whole, the characters are well developed and part of what makes this story so captivating. Each has different challenges they are dealing with, keeping it realistic and relatable for the reader.
Throughout the novel, I was reminded of different aspects of Noggin by John Corey Whaley, Vitro by Jessica Khoury, and Divergent by Veronica Roth. Deadly Design was an engrossing book for me; I read it in less than 24 hours because I needed to know what happened. Deadly Design is suspenseful, emotional, slightly futuristic, and real. Definitely check it out for a great action-packed read this summer!
Deadly Design is now available wherever books are sold.
Thank you to Penguin Young Readers for the advanced review copy.