JOAN THE MADE
by Kristen Pham
On Joan Fasces\’ eighteenth birthday, she discovers that she is cloned from the famous Joan of Arc. But being cloned in America comes at a steep price. Segregated and oppressed, clones are forced to act as docile servants to the rest of the Evolved population.
Joan can either run from her fate and spend the rest of her life in hiding, or she can join a Throwback rebellion populated by clones of the greatest leaders in history.
The doorbell rings, and I bound down the steps. My parents hover beside the front door. Mom doesn’t comment on my appearance, even though I can tell she notices my skinned elbows. When I see her knuckles, red and raw from all her hand-wringing, a strange dart of fear pings through my body.
A tall woman with tan skin and short, cropped hair enters our house and shakes my parents’ hands after she sets her briefcase on the ground.
“Jayne Piers, from the Department of Genetic Evolution,” she says, introducing herself.
She shakes my hand, and her stare is piercing, like she can read the truth of my DNA in my eyes.
“Joan Fasces,” I say, willing my voice to stop trembling.
Mom leads us into the dining room, which is elegantly decorated for the birthday lunch she insisted on hosting for me to celebrate being Confirmed as Evolved.
Jayne sits and opens her briefcase. Her movements are efficient as she attaches a needle to her smartphone and pulls my arm toward her. The sharp tip stings my index finger as it collects a drop of my blood for analysis. When she’s done, she sprays my finger and the needle with a sanitizer mist.
“This won’t take long,” Jayne says as data about my DNA rapidly fills the screen of her phone.
I look up for the first time since Jayne took my blood and see that my parents are gripping each other’s hands tightly. Mom’s eyes meet mine and fill with tears, and the realization hits me right before the words come out of Jayne’s mouth.
“Your DNA is cloned. You’re a Genetic Replicant,” she says. There’s no judgment; she’s stating a fact.
I’m a Throwback.
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I love the concept behind this book. A future where a percentage of the population is clones of famous people and said clones are controlled based on who they’re cloned from? That just sounds cool. This book had a lot of great stuff going on. Aside from the main societal conflict between the clones (or throwbacks) and evolved, there was also a ranking system within the throwback world. Joan, our main character, is a clone of Joan of Arc and is slated to be an actress. But even within performance school, she is considered a “historical,” looked down at by the clones of actual performers, such as Marilyn Monroe. It’s tough to find YA sci-fi or dystopia books without a rebellion, but this book manages to actually have two going on, and there is yet more strife here. There is one rebellion that’s all about peaceful change and another that isn’t afraid to play dirty. There is no end of tension in this book, and though this is all so complex, it’s very understandable and easy to follow.
All this said, something about this book just didn’t work for me. I was fascinated by the various power struggles, but at the end of the book, I found myself asking “why.” Why are clones second-class citizens? What brought us to this point in this world? Maybe the answer is waiting in a sequel, but I didn’t get even a hint, and that made the whole thing feel like it was missing something.
There were also some key things that were glossed over. How do clones come into being? Is there a machine? Artificial insemination? Also, how did this society obtain DNA for people who lived long before DNA was even known, like Genghis Khan?
Joan, too, felt off. As a protagonist, I can say I mostly liked her. In the beginning, she seemed kind of bratty, but by the end, she was better. Some things about her, though, just didn’t make sense. She knows who Marilyn Monroe and Louis Armstrong are, but she realizes one of her teachers is “some tap dancer named Gene Kelly.” I really enjoyed her backstory, and I liked how her parent’s addiction was brought forward into her personality. On the other hand, the love subplot with her and Justice felt kind of forced and too quick. Regarding this, I have suspicions about a potential love triangle and that something the evolved told the throwbacks will turn out to be a lie. Also, there seemed to be a texting inconsistency between Joan and Justice, which always caught me off guard.
In the end, I did enjoy this book. The world is strong, and the concept is fantastic. The execution just fell short for me. Despite this, I am curious enough to read a sequel. This book left many questions unanswered, some that really needed answers. But I want to know what happens next.
Kristen Pham is a YA science fiction and fantasy writer who lives for really great fudge, roller coasters, and exploring new worlds via fiction. She lives in San Jose, CA with her children and husband, where she eagerly waits for her kids to turn 11 and receive their invitations to Hogwarts.
Kristen Pham will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway