by Ari Goelman
Published on October 17, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult
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You may believe the government protects you, but only one girl knows how they use you.
Lauren has a disorder that makes her believe everything her friends tell her--and she believes everyone is her friend. Her innocence puts her at constant risk, so when she gets the opportunity to have an operation to correct her condition, she seizes it. But after the surgery, Lauren is changed. Is she a paranoid lunatic with violent tendencies? Or a clear-eyed observer of the world who does what needs to be done?
Told in journal entries and therapy session transcripts, The Innocence Treatment is a collection of Lauren's papers, annotated by her sister long after the events of the novel. A compelling YA debut thriller that is part speculative fiction and part shocking tell-all of genetic engineering and government secrets, Lauren's story is ultimately an electrifying, propulsive, and spine-tingling read.
What do you do when you believe everything you’re told? It’s crazy, hearing that. Sounds like fiction. Which, in this case, it is though I know a few people out there that fit the description too… In Lauren’s case, it’s extreme and the surgery she has makes her truly see the truth. It’s not pretty.
I wasn’t really sure about The Innocence Treatment. I know my reading tastes pretty well and none of it came off as “must read now” material. More like another YA dystopian which is not a genre I often read by choice anymore. Then I started it.
If you’ve read Illuminae you’ll be familiar with the alternate writing style of journal entries, interview transcripts, and medical memos for lack of a better descriptor. The timeline jumps back and forth between the journal entries and the transcripts, but it’s all set in the past as you learn at the beginning that this book was put together by Lauren’s sister following its events. I think the style, combined with the short length of the book, made it a super quick read and I found I flew through it.
Lauren reminds me of what I was always taught to be an unreliable narrator. For a while, you’re not really sure who’s telling the truth — her or the doctors and government officials. Picking one side or the other, as a reader, completely changes the experience too because you start looking through a single lens. I liked the way she’s portrayed through her own journal entries as well as in the interviews. You see two different people, basically, and I took that as a sign of what the truth can do to someone. The real truth, not what someone wants to believe.
This book really made me think.
I liked the story concept too, but I didn’t love it. The idea of “innocence” being considered a disability struck me as odd because much of the way Lauren acted made me think of when someone’s called “sheltered.” It makes more sense later on but all the science and genetics involved came off as a bit far-fetched to make it REALLY believable for me. But the story is enjoyable. And though we don’t get much of it, I liked reading her sister, Evelyn’s, perspectives looking back on the events.
I can’t say I was entirely happy with the ending. It’s a bit too open for my tastes and not in the way that hints at another book but in the “we’ll never know” way. I generally like more of a closed ending, especially for standalones.
Ultimately, this book interested me in the way it had me questioning the characters and the government system in place in the book. Especially with current events, the idea of an “Innocence Treatment” is downright scary and not entirely unfeasible in some other form than what’s described in the book. The Innocence Treatment is perfect for readers looking for a book written in a different style from the norm that makes you think beyond the text (think V for Vendetta) and I would definitely recommend it!