Summary: Sixteen year-old Dylan is an only child and a bit of a loner. His girlfriend breaks up with him because she’s sick of hearing him talk about bugs, but when a new girl named Robyn starts at his school, Dylan finds himself with a new friend who has her own quirks. Both have an affinity for the study of death, and both are affected by secrets their parents have kept from them. In Dylan’s case though, the secrets his parents have hidden involve a dead older brother and questionable, possibly illegal activities that could put Dylan in danger and his parents in jail. As the secrets start to unravel, Dylan is left to question who he really is, and what kind of future he might have.
Number of Pages: 174
Age Range: 15-16
Spoiler Alert! Don’t read any further if you have plans to read this book!
Review: Did you know identical twins share the same DNA sequence but have different fingerprints? It’s the same with clones – they have the same DNA sequence as their DNA donor, but different fingerprints that are influenced by their growth in the uterus. In our society though, identical twins and clones are vastly different. Twins are known to have souls, but the jury’s still out on whether clones do.
Lesley Choyce tackles the philosophical issues of cloning through the story of Dylan, a sixteen year-old who finds out his parents dealt with the childhood death of his older brother by cloning him. His book reminds me of Unique by Alison Allen-Gray, which tackles the same issues and the same reluctance to tell the truth on the end of the parents.
Deconstructing Dylan is a good introduction to subject, exploring what it means to be a clone and share another’s DNA, as well as the conflict Dylan’s parents experience as a result of their decisions. It is also a story about giving of yourself to help others through their turmoil, which seems to be a positive, re-occurring theme in Choyce’s books. His characters aren’t always successful in their attempts to provide support, but they try their best.
Due to the philosophical nature of this book I wouldn’t recommend it to reluctant readers, but it is suitable for the early to mid teens. Though cloning is a science fiction topic, teens will identify with Dylan’s struggle to define himself as his own person.
“Most of my life I have felt somewhat like a water strider – able to walk or run on the surface of things, knowing that if something were to disturb that surface, I would sink into whatever was beneath me and drown. I don’t mean to sound melodramatic. Part of me, though, often wanted to pierce that surface and drop beneath. I wanted to see what was down there. I wanted to be immersed although I did not want to drown.” – Dylan from Deconstructing Dylan by Lesley Choyce, page 21
“I wanted to tell her I felt like one of those insects I’d read about. I’d just outgrown the hard casing of my body. I’d cracked out of one skin and was tossing it off but I didn’t have a hard new skin yet. I felt exposed and vulnerable and the only person who could really help me was right here with me. And I could never, would never, tell her the truth.” – Dylan from Deconstructing Dylan by Lesley Choyce, pages 128-129
“Did I even have a right to exist? Not according to some of the hard-line thinkers. I was a freak of nature. A monster. And how was I going to live with that?” – Dylan from Deconstructing Dylan by Lesley Choyce, page 131
“I was offended by the way she said it. ‘Jesus. What am I – some kind of science project? A walking, talking lab experiment?’
My mom started to cry. I didn’t apologize.” – Dylan from Deconstructing Dylan by Lesley Choyce, page 145
“I took out the twin photographs of Kyle and me. ‘In some ways I feel like I truly know who my brother was but in other ways I feel like I don’t know him at all. Even though I never met him, I miss him. I wish he were still alive.’
‘But then if he had lived, you never would have been born,’ Graham said.
‘I know. It’s bizarre. I actually feel guilty that I’m alive and he isn’t.’ – conversation between Dylan and Graham from Deconstructing Dylan by Lesley Choyce, page 171