Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Originals by Cat Patrick

Elizabeth, Ella and Betsey are clones of an "Original", a baby who died and whose parents wanted their child cloned. However, when the parents revealed that they wanted only the most "perfect" of the babies, they were told that the embryos died. Instead, the three babies were carried to term by their mother and raised as triplets until the doctor who created them and who was arrested for undertaking the cloning procedure suggested that they might be alive.

 As a result, their mother moved them to San Diego, California, where the three sixteen year olds now live life as one person; Elizabeth Best, a student at Woodbury. They split their day up with Elizabeth (Lizzie) doing morning classes, while Ella does the afternoon and Betsey is homeschooled during the day and does the evening college class and holds a job. Their mother, Sonya Bauer, works at night in the local hospital as an ER physician.

Although they are genetic copies of one person, each girl has begun to show personality differences and strengths in different subjects at school. For example, while Elizabeth excels at creative writing and Spanish, Ella excels at maths and sciences. So when Elizabeth fails a trigonometry test, their mother switches their schedules around.

However, things become complicated when Elizabeth falls for a boy, Sean Kelly, in her creative writing class, while Ella meets and falls for a different guy by the name of Dave Chandler. Both girls want to date the guys they like but can't because the world knows only one Elizabeth Best. Their mother decides that only one boy will be chosen and that all three will have to date him. Of course this leads to the inevitable hard feelings and confusion when Ella's Dave is chosen.

Determined that Elizabeth not lose Sean, Ella and Betsey arrange for Elizabeth to go out on a date with him at night. But for Elizabeth this is bittersweet because this is her one and only chance with Sean. After Ella injures her ankle and Elizabeth is forced to go out on a date with Dave,  the three girls decide that things must change. They need to take back their lives from their controlling mother.  The situation is further complicated by the fact that Elizabeth discovers that her mother is not actually working as a doctor and that she is being paid large amounts of money by someone. The girls begin to question all that their mother has told them and the circumstances behind their lives.

Elizabeth who realizes more than the others that their lives are untenable,  makes the decision to tell Sean about her situation. Remarkably, Sean takes this pretty much in stride and agrees to help Elizabeth. This marks the beginning of the three girls gradually reclaiming their lives. However, it takes a serious outside threat to make their mother see things their way and for all to make the journey towards a more normal existence.

The Originals has an interesting and unique premise which the author manages to make work in a general way but it's not without its problems.  Although Patrick ties together all the loose ends and weaves a story that mostly fits together at times events seem contrived with conflicts and dangerous situations too easily resolved (for example, the three girls have absolutely no problems finding a mysterious man who is able to make fake identities for all three girls so they can live life as three individuals). Another weak aspect of the novel was the character of Betsey, of whom the reader learns very little. Part of this is due to the fact that the novel was written in Lizzie's voice and the conflict was between Lizzie and Ella over boys, and between Lizzie and her mother over Lizzie's increasing independence and their absurd life. Betsey at times seemed irrelevant. She was a good sport to not mind staying home all day, every day, to be homeschooled while her sisters split time at high school, were dating and participating in sports.

Patrick doesn't get too involved in the science behind human cloning but instead focuses more on the relationships between the three girls, especially that of Elizabeth and Ella and how they work together to make function what is becoming an increasingly unworkable lifestyle.  Each of the girls recognize one another's abilities, support their individual choices, and do their best to help each other.

The author also does a great job creating a creepy factor in having Lizzie date a boy she doesn't like just so that her sister can still have a chance with him. It's interesting to see Lizzie try to understand what Ella likes in Dave. Because she's not attracted to him, she sees Dave's flaws more readily while concluding she can be friends with him but nothing more.

The blossoming romance between Lizzie and Sean, and the growing mystery behind their mother's past will keep readers engaged to the whirlwind ending that will be satisfying. I'm a big fan of Cat Patrick's writing, but I didn't like this novel quite as much as her previous titles, Forgotten and Revived.

Those who are interested in cloning might note that the first human stem cells were just recently created by cloning

Book Details:
The Originals by Cat Patrick
New York: Little, Brown Books for Young People    2013
305 pp.

No comments: