Thursday, December 15, 2005

Double Helix

Werlin, Nancy. 2004. DOUBLE HELIX. New York: Dial Books. ISBN 0803726066 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

When Eli, a recent high school graduate, decides to forego his first year of college in order to take a high-paying job at Wyatt Transgenics, his father is more than displeased. He’s worried about Eli’s involvement with the company’s owner, legendary molecular biologist Quincy Wyatt. Eli knows that his father, his terminally-ill mother, and Quincy have a connected past, but he doesn’t know the details. His father’s refusal to explain his contempt for Quincy is only one of the mysteries Eli must confront and conquer in this new-age novel about genetic engineering.

Werlin has expertly woven sophisticated science, debilitating disease, teenage romance, and strained parent-child relationships into an intriguing modern mystery. Readers will certainly connect with the conflicts between Eli and his father, as well as those between Eli and his girlfriend. The esoteric conflict concerning gene manipulation in humans as a means of preventing disease and deformities is an ever-present underlying theme of the story. “I don’t trust us,” Eli analyzes. “Even with the best of intentions – we might think we’re eradicating suffering, but are we?” The social implications of the science presented in this story give the reader critical thoughts to ponder, while providing the background for a conventional tale of a young man’s struggle for identity and love.

Provide additional information about genetic engineering (see RELATED BOOKS). Then, hold a debate about the ethics of this new science.

Research Huntington’s Disease or other genetic diseases, identifying symptoms, debilitations, life expectancy, etc.

Other novels involving genetic science:
Card, Orson Scott. ENDER’S GAME. ISBN 0765342294
Patterson, James. WHEN THE WIND BLOWS. ISBN 0316693324

Nonfiction books about genetic engineering:
Chesterton, G.K. EUGENICS AND OTHER EVILS. ISBN 1587420023
Judson, Karen. GENETIC ENGINEERING. ISBN 0766015874

By Rebecca S. McKee

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