When I picked up Jennifer Rush’s Altered, I expected an X-Men-type story, but it turned out to be more like The Bourne Identity. (Not a bad thing.)
Anna and her dad live in an isolated farmhouse with a secret lab in the basement. The lab is home to four teen boys named Sam, Cas, Trevor, and Nick. The boys have no memory of their pasts. All they know is that they’re part of the Branch’s program to create the perfect soldier.
Anna’s dad is in charge of administering the gene treatment that has altered the boys, and Anna has tried to make life more than an ongoing science project for the four of them. They’ve become more than test subjects to her, especially Sam, and when representatives from the Branch show up to collect them, Anna doesn’t want to say goodbye.
The boys have no intention of cooperating and use the Branch’s arrival as an opportunity to escape. Anna’s dad begs her to go with the boys and help them discover the truth about their identities, but the more they discover, the more Anna begins to question her own past.
Altered starts off with an interesting premise then starts to wander into formula fiction. Just as I was getting ready to sigh over its predictability, Rush managed to squeeze in a couple of twists that renewed my interest. Altered has plenty of action and a touch of romance, but if the F-bomb offends you, then be warned that several are dropped. Most of them are dropped by one of the boys in particular and they fit with his character, so I didn’t feel like the author did it simply for shock and awe. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story. It’s just something for sensitive readers to keep in mind.
Altered bears some similarity to Jill Williamson’s Replication: The Jason Experiment. Replication might be a good alternative if you want a profanity-free read, and it’s being released as a paperback in March with an awesome new cover. (In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a Jill Williamson fan.)