Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Do not do anything else until you go to a book store or your eReader and purchase and read this book. Call out of work (I was this close to doing so*). Turn off your phone (its ringing will pull you out of the state of terror you will be in. Don’t let your friggin’ smartphone ruin your reading experience). Close the shades and cancel social engagements.
Read this book.
Breed by Chase Novak is the story of Alex and Leslie, two very wealthy New Yorkers whose perfect relationship is missing on thing: offspring. Alex, a pompous lawyer convinced that his lineage is worth breeding, vice using a surrogate or adopting, convinces his worn-out wife to visit one last doctor (after seeing dozens before), paying one last fee (on top of the near million they have already spent)…in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Leslie is wary, mad even…but succumbs one last time. They make the trip. They meet the (incredibly odd, off-putting, jerk of a doctor), and she is pregnant before they even leave the tarmac in Munich.
Cut to ten years later, and their twins (twins!) Adam and Alice have finally grown so scared of their parent’s odd behavior that they devise a plan to make a run for it. Their horrifying adventure includes a cast of half-humans (portrayed very maturely, and not as some caricature of a demon), a concerned teacher, and an innocent aunt. Each of the characters we meet are fascinating foil characters who lend a lot to the book. Novak included no superfluous characters or storylines. I loved that about this book.
You cannot read the book without realizing that Novak is trying to tell his readers something. (More than just, “Your parents want to eat you!”) He isn’t questioning couples who want to have children, but he is quite obviously screaming at those who are willing to put themselves (and their potential offspring) through scientific experiments in order to have a baby. Leslie even says, “But there are so many children in the world waiting for someone to take care of them. Wouldn’t we do just as well to adopt?” Novak portrays Alex as a man obsessed with his and his wife’s intelligent, attractive genes, and does not want anything marring the Twisden family name. Well little does he know, that is exactly what he does with that last $40,000 doctor’s fee.
Another topic of Novak social commentary is the gay-teacher-befriending-a-young-student issue, and he is quite obviously seething with contempt over the way gay teachers are thought of as “gay teachers” and not as “teachers”. Novak wrote from the gay teacher’s perspective when young Adam is first hiding in his house, “A creepy, guilty feeling comes over him, the kind that comes from not doing anything wrong but from doing something that leaves you wide open to interpretation and accusation.”
Novak did nothing half-assed. While some storylines went unfinished (What happens to Bernard? The pack of kids?), I was more or less okay with it because the wrapping-up of the main plot had me bowled over and staring at the wall until a frog landed on my window, jolting me out of my zombie-like state. When I first read the summary of this book, I was pulled in so tight. But I worried, would it live up to my expectation? Or Stephen King’s promise that it is “the best horror novel I’ve read since [some book published in 1989]”? Well, per my demand that all (4) of my blog readers stop everything they are doing and go read this book…I’d say yes.
I recommend this book to any mature (so yes, teen) reader who can handle creepiness and horror. I am toying with the idea of nominating the book as a 2012 Alex Award Winner (adult book that appeals to young readers) because of the interest I know many teens would have in the action and horror elements (if they can get through the “I so badly want to reproduce” conversation between the middle-aged married couple in the beginning of the novel). Disclaimer, as the NYT book reviewer Janet Maslin wrote:
It is probably best avoided by anyone not wishing to know exactly what it’s like to eat a baby pigeon.
Check out the book trailer here:
HOLY COW THERE’S A SEQUEL!!! YES!!! Thank, NYT for informing me of that one!! Hell yes! YES!
*But only because I had a sinus thing going on. No, seriously.