*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: One of Us
Author: Craig Dilouie
Publication Date: July 17, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
They call it the plague
A generation of children born with extreme genetic mutations.
They call it a home
But it’s a place of neglect and forced labour.
They call him a Freak
But Dog is just a boy who wants to be treated as normal.
They call them dangerous
They might be right.
I’m really torn about Dilouie’s One of Us. On the one hand, I think it’s an excellent commentary on race and racism in the American south, exploring this topic through fantastical allegory. It’s also a commentary on snap judgements based on appearance, making assumptions based on how another looks without taking a moment to know or understand that person. In this world, a plague affecting thousands of children around the world has altered their genetics to make them superhuman beings. Often with unusual or “different” features, the sight of these children repulses and raises prejudice in those that consider themselves “normal.” They persecute these children, confining them to isolation and abuse. With a civil war imminent, some try to voice their support for acceptance of the children but they are shot down. With seemingly no allies, the children must find a way to fight for their lives.
There are clear parallels between this story and the discrimination persecution that has existed and continues to exist in the world today. The townsfolk refuse to assimilate their children with the plague children. They force them to labour in the fields and on local properties exploiting them as a labour force without proper compensation. The children are allowed no freedoms and are at the mercy of the law. This story explores the concept of hate-based fears and unfounded prejudice. It shows how hatred breeds fear in a vicious and difficult-to-break cycle and how difficult it is to stand up to deep-seated and ingrained discrimination to make a change for the better.
However, on the other hand, this story goes so much further than it needs to on so many occasions that I often felt total disgust at the characters or repulsed by the explicit violence and gore. There are scenes of rape–real and fantasy, there are gratuitously violent moments that go into great detail, and there is even lust surround female children that linger for far too long. There are ways to deal with these topics without delving into such detail. I felt gross at times reading it, and it really put me off the story. It’s too bad that such things needed to be included so graphically because it really detracted from an excellent discussion about some very real and prevalent issues in our own world today.
I’m on the fence about this one. I don’t think I’d read it again, and I can’t say if I’d recommend it. Many people on Goodreads have a lot of nice things to say, so I’d recommend reading a few reviews before making the decision to read this one, or avoid it.