What starts out as a straightforward family story suddenly turns into something very different and definitely worrying. When their mother dies, Aster and her sister Poppy are sent to live with their aunt in New Zealand. However she is a scientist researching cures for cancer and they find themselves at her research facility at an ecovillage near the coast of North Island. Whilst their aunt is glad to see them there is a definite sense that something strange is going on and her colleague Dr Nygard is obviously hiding something. There is a parallel strand to the story as a young man called Sam, who they met on the plane, is desperate to find a cure for his grandfather and thinks that Nygard might help. After an accident at sea Aster is washed up on a deserted island and starts searching for her missing sister and aunt, but things get stranger by the hour. How Poppy is found and why circumstances are so confusing makes for an amazing story with elements of science fiction and mystery.
At the heart of this story is the strong bond between members of a family, but it also highlights the dangers that occur when people become fixated by an idea or a dream. Both the girls and Sam have either lost someone to cancer, or have a family member suffering from it. The problem is that there are so many types of the disease and I would have liked the author to be more specific about the conditions, rather than using the very generic term. The twists and turns that we find in the plot raise many questions and there are lessons for all of those who think we should be working with DNA and manipulating everything from crops to humans. I love the way the author gradually brings different strands in to play, often changing the direction of the plot as she does so. This is a story that really makes you think about the world we have and how far we are willing to go to ‘improve’ life. It is a great story for those who love elements of sci-fi and dystopia but it would also have a strong role to play within the school environment when talking about health and ethics in particular.