Title: FRAGILE REMEDY
Author: MARIA INGRANDE MORA
Genre: FICTION, YOUNG ADULT FICTION, SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY, LGBTQ, QUEER YOUNG ADULT FICTION, DYSTOPIAN FICTION, SPECULATIVE FICTION
Length: 400 PAGES
Publisher: FLUX BOOKS – A Division of NORTHSTAR EDITIONS
Received From: NETGALLEY
Release Date: JUNE 16, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-63583-057-6 (EBOOK)
Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Sixteen-year-old Nate is a Gem—a Genetically Engineered Medical Surrogate—created by Gathos City scientists as a cure for the elite from the fatal lung rot ravaging the population. As a child, Nate was smuggled out of the laboratory where he was held captive and into the Withers—a quarantined, lawless region. He manages to survive by becoming a Tinker, fixing broken tech in exchange for food or a safe place to sleep. When he meets Reed, a kind and fiercely protective boy that makes his heart race, and his misfit gang of scavengers, Nate finds the family he’s always longed for—even if he can’t risk telling them what he is.
But Gathos created a genetic failsafe in their Gems—a flaw in their DNA that causes their health to rapidly deteriorate as they age unless they are regularly dosed with medication controlled by Gathos City. When violence erupts across the Withers, Nate’s illegal supply of medicine is cut off, and a vicious attack on Reed threatens to expose his secret. With time running out, Nate is left with only two options: work for a shadowy terrorist organization that has the means to keep him alive, or stay—and die—with the boy he loves.
“His kind had been developed by scientists to fight the lung-rot outbreak, and later — when the lung-rot was gone — to be used up. Harvested by the wealthy. Kept endlessly asleep or left awake to participate in the horror of it. At least that’s what people said when they whispered about GEMs…Genetically Engineered Medi-tissue. He wasn’t supposed to be here.”
Nate is sixteen and an abomination. At least, that is what he had been told. He knew he wasn’t like everyone else in the Withers. He was starving and scraping together a meager existence, just like everyone else who had the bad luck to live in The Withers – a slum filled with people who would not hesitate to kill you for food, or for anything they could use to trade for Chem to feed their addiction.
Nate knew that if the members of his gang discovered he was a GEM, they would either kill him for putting their lives in danger, or they would turn him over to the Breakers – never to be seen again. He didn’t want to put his friend’s lives in danger, especially Reed’s, but he loved being a gang member, they were the closest thing he had to a family. And, although he had never admitted it out loud, he not only loved Reed, he was also IN LOVE with him.
Just surviving the streets of The Withers was challenge enough, but Nate had another problem, his genetically engineered DNA (and that of all GEMs) had been modified so that his body would deteriorate and he would perish before ever reaching adulthood. He needed to find a way to survive, and he knew it would not be easy.
The world-building in FRAGILE REMEDY is second to none. With vivid descriptions of the slums known as The Withers so descriptive it is impossible not to form pictures of it in your mind. I love the fact that the world in which Nate lives is comprised of islands, and instead of water separating each island, and each social class, from the other, there is a vast ocean of toxic sludge which is fatal once submersed in it.
There are numerous parallels between our own society and the issues planet Earth is currently experiencing to the world of FRAGILE REMEDY. For example:
The society in FRAGILE REMEDY is segregated between the ‘Haves’ and the ‘Have Nots.’ The high class citizens live in the Towers of Gathos City and never leave their perfect lives to see how anyone else lives. It is these people who create and keep GEMs so that they can extend their own lives by using the GEMs blood and body parts. This may sound far fetched, but cloning already exists, and stem cells are already being used in medical treatments. Is it really so unbelievable that in humanity’s quest to extend human lives, something like creating a clone for the purpose of using ‘it’ as a personal organ bank may be inevitable.
Of course, it would be expensive to create a clone, so only the uber-rich would be able to afford such a luxury, thus creating another socioeconomic division amongst the world’s population.
Once the clones are created, the rich clone owners would want to protect their assets. This could easily lead to physical segregation similar to that of the islands on which Nate has spent the entirety of his sixteen years of life.
ADDICTION is another of the central themes of FRAGILE REMEDY. Instead of being addicted to alcohol or opiods, the addicts in this story are fiends for a substance known as Chem. “They’d all been regular people once. People who’d made choices – good and bad. Chem had wrenched those choices out of their hands.”
Another theme is HOPE. In FRAGILE REMEDY, Nate may not have many possessions, and he is aware that he will die sooner rather than later, but he still has hope. He hopes that he can do some good before he dies. He hopes that Reed feels the same way about Nate as Nate feels about Reed. And in a wider sense, the inhabitants of The Withers scrounge a meager living on a daily basis, but they still have hope that at some point, the doors to Gathos City will open to admit them.
I love the fact that the characters in this story are diverse and multi-faceted. Sparks is Trans, Nate is Gay, Alden is Queer, and other characters are Cisgender. Skin color is so rarely mentioned that I chose to believe that it was not a factor in their society.
Central to the story and to life in both Gathos City and in The Withers is the ethics of cloning as well as the question of what it is that truly makes a person human. With the increasingly complex technology and the numerous companies and laboratories working on the advancement of A.I. (Artificial Intelligence,)
There are plots and subplots, there are individual histories for each character, there is the storyline where their lives intersect. There are romances and romantic entanglements that will satisfy even the most diehard romantic. And, finally, there is the theme of Family, and the fact that sometimes the people you choose to invest your emotions in make a more loyal family than those who share your DNA.
I started reading this book yesterday morning and was unable (and unwilling) to put it down. I spent twelve straight hours reading FRAGILE REMEDY and they were hours well spent.
There is only one rating I would even consider giving to this book and that is the best possible one. So, I rate FRAGILE REMEDY as 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and am sincerely hoping that author MARIA INGRANDE MORA is planning to write additional books in this series. I will be first in line to grab a copy of any book she writes.
*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book ***
“He [Nate] longed for the simplicity of believing in something good. He’d seen too much of the bad to have faith.”
“He had no right to love Reed. But the soft, private smile on Reed’s lips when their eyes met still sent a current of affection through him.”
“Nate approached slowly, the way hungry kids stalked sludge-rats.”
“‘They’ll make him sleep like they do in Gathos City.’ His voice went ragged. ‘They’ll cut him apart. What were you thinking coming here?'”
“I feel the need to remind you that my grandmother also believed that the cockroaches in her bedroom were trying to get a look at her knickers.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Maria Ingrande Mora (she/her) is Content Director at Big Sea, a digital marketing agency in St. Petersburg, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida, she has been working in digital media since 2002. Maria specializes in identifying brand narratives and translating them into messaging that doesn’t feel like marketing.
Maria is the single mom of a tween and a teen, and the roomate of two cats and two dogs.
She identifies as bisexual, and hopes that it isn’t super weird of her to outright say, because representation and visibility matter.
If she isn’t writing, revising, or at work, please tell her to go to bed.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links: