CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 6 . . . . November 12, 1999
"I don't know either. I mean if we are exactly the same personality, then, well, wouldn't we be pretty much the same emotionally? I mean I've seen these programs on twins. Mr. London showed us one in biology. Twins separated at birth who are exactly alike even use the same brand of toothpaste.""Miranda, why do you always have to be so good?" complains Emma, Miranda's best friend. Almost 14, Miranda, a blond, blue-eyed, straight A student, who is talented in dance, even tempered and obedient, with wealthy and loving parents, finds her perfect life beginning to fall apart when everything around her becomes "fuzzy and blurred." Tests at one of the Coburn Conglomerate clinics owned by her parents reveal she suffers from Von Hippel-Lindau disease, a genetic multi-system disorder. Miranda's parents insist everything will be fine because they know specialists who will help. However, Miranda grows increasingly puzzled by her parents' behavior especially when she hears her "perfect" parents arguing. Her confusion grows when she finds a picture of herself at ten, a picture she remembers nothing about and about which her parents provide conflicting explanations.
With her irrepressible friend, Emma, Miranda determines to find answers to the growing questions. Another blurred vision episode forces Miranda's hospitalization in the G.R.F. Clinic in preparation for a vital liver transplant and genetic treatments. On her first night there, Miranda regains her sight, wanders from her room and meets her double who calls herself Ten; however, Dr. Mullen and her parents try to convince Miranda that she dreamed it all. Only Emma believes her, and the two resolve to find out the truth. Miranda locates Ten again who imparts disturbing information insisting she is made for Miranda: "My destiny is you." Finally, Dr. Mullen and the parents admit that Ten is a clone, an "insurance policy" with spare parts for Miranda. "Everything is wrong," concludes a horrified Miranda. "Everything is upside down. Everything I thought was true was a lie." Miranda flatly refuses to accept Ten's "gifts" and insists Dr. Mullen find another solution to her medical problems which he eventually does. Miranda faces even further distress when she discovers she, herself, had been cloned from the DNA of her sister, Jessica, who died of a brain tumor. Dr. Mullen manipulated her "genetic makeup to make [her] as strong and healthy as possible" and "enhanced her mental and physical abilities," but a flaw developed, and Miranda "just spontaneously got sick."
Matas tackles the controversial topic of cloning and raises various ethical issues surrounding medical research as well as issues about honesty and truth, especially in families. Both Miranda in her quest for truth and understanding and Emma with her pragmatic and rebellious nature find life is neither perfect nor static, but constantly changing. Miranda, as narrator, shares her fears, her confusion, her frustration, her anger, and her resolution to find an acceptable solution to her dilemma. Readers of Matas's respectable body of fiction will recognize her characteristic style of incorporating ethical considerations into her characters' growth, even in this medical thriller. The fast-paced plot races to a satisfying climax and tidy denouement and should appeal to young readers.
Darleen Golke works as the teacher-librarian at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg, MB.
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