GEMs and Blemished aren't meant to be together. Reproduction outside of genetic facilities is forbidden. Blemished genes can never be reproduced, and to make sure of that, Blemished women are subjected to sterilization. But Mina refuses to become one of those women. She yearns to live her life without the government hovering overhead. MIna's father attempts to keep her safe from GEMs and the operation alike, but Mina's special talent and the fact that she has set her mind to change the oppressive and frightening world she lives in pushes her right into the maw of danger.
The interesting thing about this dystopian fantasy is that it isn't that far distant. The main character Mina, is only a few decades late to experience the once beautiful and free England. Many of the older residents remember life before GEM took over and Blemished became segregated. Adding to the closeness of the story is that the idea of genetically enhanced humans is not that fantastical. Dalton did a good job of creating a world that was real enough to be frightening, but fantastical enough to be an enjoyable read.
The idea of how the classes had been segregated was interesting as well. GEM are afforded all the comforts they want while Blemished are trained to serve their betters. The interesting thing about the Blemished was that only the girls went to school. The boys were apprenticed out to learn trades and were not taught to read and write. The feminist slant to this setup was what the author intended, but I was not sure there was any reason behind this decision. With the GEM's fear of the woman's ability to birth children, I wondered why they wouldn't keep the women as ignorant as possible. My other concern about the structure of this society is that if the Blemished weren't allowed to procreate, when the last of them died, who would serve the GEM? There were a few issues with the structure of this society, but overall, it worked to show the vileness of the government and the desperation of Mina's situation.
The characters in The Blemished were very well done. The complexities of each person in the story added layers to every interaction. Dalton did well to show the hidden motives, uncertainty, or falseness of some characters through their words and actions. Murgatroyd was especially well done. This horrible woman clearly had deep seated issues that led to her actions. Readers get hints of what those are, but the majority is left to later books. I was very interested in learning more about her. Each of the characters experience emotional conflicts that tore at them, and their realistic reactions draw the readers in with every stab of pain or promise of happiness.
The romantic side of this story was intriguing. You get introduced to the suave and charming Sebastian right off the bat and know he will be a factor, but then you meet Daniel, a strange yet compelling young man, and know he too will tug at Mina's heart. Add in the fact that Daniel's adoptive sister is also in love with Daniel, but Daniel only views her as family, and things get even more complicated. I was quite drawn in by the romantic elements of this book, however, I did feel the ultimate choice of who Mina would choose was fairly clear from the beginning. Not that Mina does make a choice by the end of the book, per se, but it was obvious who she wanted. What continued to pull me to the love story aspect was that their were still barriers to Mina getting what she wanted. I know who she will choose, but I'm not sure how she will get what she wants.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable book. I am definitely interesting in continuing the series, however there were a few issues that will hold me back from giving this book my top recommendation. The beginning chapters were rather a rough start for me. There were too many moments were I felt the influences of The Hunger Games and books like Gattica were too strong for this world to stand out on its own. The reason for genetic modification to get rid of pre-dispositions to disease seemed right out of Gattica, while the ghettos divided up into Area 10 and Area 14 were very reminiscent of The Hunger Games. Steering away from such stark comparisons would have helped the first few chapters set this book apart much better.
There were some areas where the explanations of the world were doled out in big chunks rather than spread throughout the chapter that slowed my reading down a bit. At many times there were awkward transitions between scenes and I was left unsure for a few paragraphs of what was going on. Some areas were rushed through with a recap where it would have been more beneficial to experience the moment along with Mina. For example, the first time she witnesses Daniel collapse after a vision. There is also some language used, but it is infrequent. The editing was also in need of improvement. The use of commas between independent and dependent clauses was lacking, and there were multiple missing words. The editing errors did slow down my reading in many places.
Would I recommend this book? Yes. It was an entertaining read with good, deep characters.
Who would I recommend this book to? YA dystopian readers will enjoy this book. YA romance readers will enjoy it as well. This book does have crossover potential to adults, but I do think adults will be more bothered by some of the issues noted above than younger readers.
Find out more about The Blemished by checking out the YouTube book trailer!
The Blemished is available now from Amazon in paperback and ebook.