When this one showed up on the shelf at my favorite used bookstore, I had to grab it. It’s a really striking cover.
Dusk by Susan Gates
Putnam Juvenile (May 19, 2005)
Courtesy of Amazon.com:
From School Library Journal
Grade 7-10–SERU (Sensory Enhancement Research Unit) is a secret facility devoted to enhancing military capabilities. Among its genetically mutated experiments are extremely clever and dangerous rats; a killer guard dog; and Dusk, a human girl who possesses hawk genes, the result of a failed attempt to create perfect night vision. When a fire erupts and destroys SERU, all of the specimens escape to a nearby deserted town. The military pulls out to cover its illegal operations, and the escapees live there under a strict, and very tense, state of peace. Two years later, a boy enters the village and disrupts that truce. It is then that Dusk has to take sides: is she human or animal? Gates creates an interesting science-fiction story, weaving in elements of survival and family dynamics. The mutated animals are just plain scary (the dogs are slightly reminiscent of Stephen King’s Cujo [Penguin, 1981]), and the genetic mutation issue makes readers wonder if this could really happen. At times a bit confusing (there’s a lot going on in the first chapter), this is a decent novel that leaves readers still concerned about the future of the title character. Will she ever really be free? But, perhaps, that’s just an excuse for a sequel.–Carly B. Wiskoff, Great Neck Library, NY
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Strengths: This had such a unique and spooky premise I couldn’t resist it. Particularly with the debates going on regarding cloning and genetic research. I definitely agree with School Library Journal; you really are left uneasily wondering if this could really happen. Gates’ narration keeps Dusk remote from us, only showing us the animal side of her at first, with increasing glimpses of her humanity as the story progresses. The inner struggle she feels between her human and hawk genes becomes more and more palpable.
Potential Flaws: Not much aside from a woefully abrupt ending, as though the story is only half-told. Readers will want to know more about Dusk’s transition from her wild existence to a more human one. It’s been 5 years and no sequel appears to be forthcoming.
An intriguing read with a unique premise and disturbing realism.