I like Katherine Applegate. I read the Animorphs series many times over. I like Michael Grant. The Gone series started really strong (I never finished, in part because it’s really dark, and in part because it’s really long, and in part because I can’t always remember who is who, but that is something else for another time). And I like, in theory, husband/wife writing teams. (You bring your work home with you! Cozy offices with multiple desks! You argue about character development! Couples therapy is less about your marital problems and starts becoming about plot points!) So with all of this in mind, I was really looking forward to Eve & Adam, which is theoretically about a girl using a simulation program to create the perfect boy. And yet, the book was barely about that, and I’m still on the fence as to how I feel about it. Spoilers to follow…
The Goodreads summary (which, presumably, was taken from the jacket copy, although I don’t have a jacketed copy with me for reference) starts with, “In the beginning, there was an apple—” Which, haha, very clever, because in the milliseconds before heroine Eve gets slammed into by a car hard enough to sever her leg off mid-thigh, she was inexplicably distracted by a red apple in the middle of green apples. It’s a loose premise, but, you know, no one’s perfect. In any case, Evening (who goes by E.V., which also makes little to no sense, and I will continue to call her Eve because my other two choices are stupid) Spiker gets hit by a car and her insanely wealthy mother, owner of Spiker Biopharmecuticals, pulls her out of the hospital after a risky surgery to reattach the leg, and instead moves her to the private Biopharm hospital wing. We learn the following things: Eve’s mother, Terra, is a bitch. Eve likes running! The company saves a lot of lives because of its research into genetic diseases. Terra hates Eve’s best friend Aislin. Aislin may or may not be an alcoholic, and is dating someone named Maddox, who definitely is a drug dealer. Terra inexplicably employs a teenage gofer who also lives at the company, whose name is Solo. Everyone’s name is increasingly stupid. And I read Modelland.
All right, if I was going to describe this book in a fun-slash-angry chat with a friend, the summary would be along the lines of: “Okay, so this girl comes out of a post-car-accident-reattachment-surgery/drug coma in the multibillion dollar biopharmaceutical facility owned by her mother, and in order to prevent her from being bored and continually calling her “drug addled slut” best friend, her scary ice queen businesswoman mother, who would totally be played by Sigourney Weaver in the movie version, tells her to go work on this software project designed to teach people how genetics work by allowing them to create a human being. BUT THEN, it’s not actually a software project, it’s a real program that somehow creates a fully formed human being. And also there’s a guy who lives in the building who is trying to sabotage the whole company for crimes against humanity, even though most of their money comes from all of the research and disease prevention that they do, all because he found a secret room where there’s a girl with a face on her back. But then it turns out that his parents, who died in a car accident when he was young, were A, accidentally-murdered by the boss’s husband, and B, actually pretty evil and the ones responsible for back-face girl. Oops!”
You know, when you lay it out, that doesn’t sound that bad, right? It sounds pretty interesting, because a lot of dances around the idea of “the greater good.” But there’s a lot of book crammed in this book, like they were trying to set up a series and just said, Nah, that seems like too much work, so shoved in an ending and damn the loose ends. Plus, there’s an entire subplot about how the best friend, more on her in a bit, is dating an inept drug dealer who now owes many thousands of dollars to some thugs, on account of being inept. So Eve volunteers to have her silence bought by her mother in order to pay off the debt, despite her not actually liking the guy. She thinks maybe this will teach best friend Aislin to Stop Dating the Inept Drug Dealer, but of course it doesn’t, and Aislin gets beat to hell in the process. It’s never really clear why the two girls are friends, since they have nothing in common beyond being two girls in the same age bracket. Aislin likes boys and dates boys and has relations with boys, and Eve is “picky” and does not. She doesn’t drink. Basically the only reasoning she ever gives is “she made me laugh when my dad died,” and “living vicariously through her,” and “she’s really loyal to her loser boyfriend.” No reasoning is ever given for why Aislin is friends with Eve, but I get the impression it’s because Eve is rich. An impression helped along by the fact that Aislin does not refuse the nine thousand dollars offered to buy off Maddox’s debt.
The book sets up a few threads:
– Inept Drug Dealer Maddox, who owes nine grand to some dudes, who gets the money from his girlfriend’s best friend’s mom, then instead of paying off the dudes who literally treed him (not to mention beat his poor girlfriend to a gross pulp), buys more product to sell, in the hopes of getting some profit from this generous and unnecessary monetary gift. They shoot him in the stomach. We never learn if he lives or dies, or if Aislin stays with him, or even if the dealer who threatens Eve directly gets paid.
– A girl genetically creates what she considers the perfect boy (he is so pretty he literally stops traffic), unaware that she is not participating in a simulation program, but creating a real, living, breathing specimen – who awakens with the very firm knowledge that he loves her. Who is then released upon the world.
– Solo has a wealth of information and files obtained over years of secrecy (and semi-unfiltered access to Spiker’s security feeds), which he is going to unleash upon the world, to expose their utter lack of morality, and bring holy government hell down on them all.
And none of those get resolved. Okay, only sort of: Solo ends up not sending the information to YouTube (something like that, and he actually uses the phrase “imgur.com” as if anyone says “dot com” aloud anymore save talking about some kind of wunderkind) because he wants to bang the boss’s daughter. Well, we all have that problem.
Adam does meet up with Eve and Aislin on the run – and it should be noted that they’re running because they’ve aligned themselves with Solo and his ‘Spiker is bad’ USB drive because Eve just found out she was genetically modified at the age of two so she is basically Wolverine minus the pointy bits and being Canadian. In any case, Terra Spiker releases Adam (she’s not the bad guy, somehow, she didn’t know that the Adam Project was not just a simulation – but then it turns out she was monitoring the bad scientists and found out the truth? (it’s unclear)) and he goes sauntering prettily through San Francisco. He and Eve make out on a bus because why not kiss a computer program that’s somehow become a real boy while you’re simultaneously on the run from angry scientists AND angry drug dealers? He’s really pretty. But they never really discuss the psychological or philosophical or moral issues associated with this ‘computer program becomes real boy’ business. Nor do they say what happens to Adam beyond that last scene where Eve realizes she didn’t program him with courage, so he’s useless in a fight against angry scientists who like the Pixies.
Most of this is thrown aside in favor of Eve and Solo’s romance, which is not really a romance because they barely ever talk. Solo is quiet and a stalker and thinks about her in the shower, and Eve – poor, picky, single Eve – is lonely and bored and thinks he has nice eyes. There’s no basis for Eve to have emotions for any of these people, we just accept it as gospel truth. Frankly, Solo is kind of a douche. He thinks so little of the people around him, and while he has some just cause in one or two cases, it doesn’t make him less irritating.
So there you have it: three or so books crammed into one, which leaves for a lot of dissatisfaction, because the world-building is pretty good, and the threads introduced are interesting, they’re just left on the desk in favor of mushy tropes designed to sell books to teen girls. Teen girls are slightly smarter than that, people.
Does Maddox die in surgery? I don’t know. (I don’t even really care, as he was a useless character with about two lines, but I’d still like to know.) Do the drug dealers get Eve or her mother? Or anybody? Does Adam get murdered in a back alley for being a freak of nature? Who the hell knows. What’s important is that we end on a makeout scene.