Dominic Gordon’s father’s never liked him – Dom’s grades aren’t good enough, he’s not interested in or any good at science, and Dom’s love of art means nothing to the wealthy CEO. Dom’s mother used to be a world famous opera singer, but she stopped singing and started drinking around the time Dom was born. The only bright spot in Dom’s life, apart from creating art, is spending time with his grandfather, and Pops is growing increasingly confused. Maybe that’s why Dom was able to find the photo album.
At first Dom thinks the photos of a young baby growing into a young man are of him – he doesn’t remember his parents ever being as happy as they look in the pictures, nor does he remember the events, but the boy looks just like him. And then the boy is older than him, going to college, and Dom realises that the pictures are of an older brother, an identical older brother, than nobody ever told him about. And everything Dom thought he knew about himself and his family falls apart.
At first I thought it was going to be a less trashy version of Virginia Andrews’s My Sweet Audrina, which is about a girl who believes she’s the younger sister of a beloved girl who was mysteriously murdered years earlier, and which is filled with the VA trademarks of weird sex, manipulative adults and claustrophobic exertion of control.
Instead Unique is a fascinating look at where advances in science may take us – Dom is the illegal clone of his parents’ first son, scientific genius Nick Gordon. The novel explores questions about how much of what and who we are is genetic and how much environmental, about the role of the media in informing us and in reinforcing our prejudices and faulty beliefs, about the ability of the law to keep up with and control scientific advances, and the ability of a populace to work themselves into hysteria. And it does so while still being informative, readable and retaining a sense of both place and person.
What I liked most was the beautiful articulation by one of Allen-Gray’s characters, a priest being interviewed about the moral status of a clone – the potential for evil, he says, is not in the child, a creature of god, but in the intention of those seeking to reproduce something gone rather than a unique being, worthy in their own right. I liked not only the ideology underlying the statement but also the author’s use of an archetype commonly seen as the embodiment of irrational superstition as the sole voice of sanity in the wilderness. This is a great blending of philosophy and young adult writing. – Alex