This greenhouse . . . grows humans.
“Enjoyable, escapist fare that many readers will enjoy” Kirkus Reviews
“[A] likable protagonist and a juicy premise” School Library Journal
“Author S.A. Bodeen has laced this sci-fi-tinged page-turner with thoughtful commentary on world hunger, sustainability, biology and biomedical ethics, plus several high-speed chases and a believable budding romance, and the whole thing works like a charm.” BookPage
“Bodeen turns out a high-wire act of a first novel, a thriller that exerts an ever-tighter grip on readers . . . The audience will feel the pressure closing in on them as they, like the characters, race through hairpin turns in the plot toward a breathless climax.” Publishers Weekly, starred review on The Compound
“Debut novelist Bodeen effectively builds the claustrophobic suspense with each chapter as readers slowly discover the Compound is not the refuge it seems. Combining elements of Margaret Peterson Haddix's Running Out of Time (1995) and Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go (2005), published for adults, this post-apocalyptic thriller will also pique the interest of Nancy Werlin and L.J. Adlington fans.” Booklist on The Compound
“Suspenseful and riveting, this debut novel raises serious issues about what it means to survive.” Kirkus Reviews on The Compound
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Read an Excerpt
By S. A. Bodeen
Feiwel and FriendsCopyright © 2010 S. A. Bodeen
All rights reserved.
In the last hour of the day, Mr. Hogan's sophomore biology class gathered around to watch the small, green-dotted frilly snail slime its way up my arm. Taller than everyone, I looked down on heads as smells drifted up. To my left, someone had taco breath from lunch. And somewhere to my right was definitely the culprit who'd ripped the little sample of men's cologne out of the school library's latest issue of Sports Illustrated.
Hogan rolled his wheelchair closer. Fridays were T-shirt day for the teachers if they paid a buck to the party fund in the office, and his declared Soylent Green Is People! "So this intertidal nudibranch is not just any marine snail."
"Looks like it has a little green wig," said one of the girls.
Our teacher continued. "This snail can photosynthesize. Which means?"
As always, Miranda Collins blurted out the answer before anyone else could. "When a plant uses sunlight to make its own food." Suck-up.
"But this isn't a plant." I couldn't tell who said that, but I was wondering the same thing.
"Aha, we have a genius!" Hogan pointed at the snail. "That is not a plant. But it eats zooxanthellae, organisms that eat algae. And algae, of course, are plants."
"That makes no sense." Although my eyes were on the snail, I felt heads turn up in my direction and it got quiet. Odd for teenagers, but it probably had to do with the fact that, after the dog incident, I didn't speak in school until fifth grade. I'm not sure if it was due to the trauma, although that's what both the speech pathologist and school psychiatrist told my mom. I think it was more a matter of my not having much to say. But since then, when I did open my mouth in class, it was still considered a bit of a novelty, I guess, because everyone tended to get quiet and listen. "I mean, I eat plants, but I can't photosynthesize. Humans are ..." I searched for the word we'd just learned that describes organisms that have to get their nutrients from other organisms. "Heterotrophic. We can't feed ourselves."
Hogan nodded. "Exactly. The zooxanthellae evolved so they could retain the cells of the algae, which are responsible for photosynthesis. Evolution, anyone?"
"Changes that take place in a species over time." Miranda again.
"Exactly. And so in the case of the zooxanthellae, you are what you eat. They became autotrophic. Self-feeders. And the nudibranchs have evolved to do the same thing."
"Mr. Hogan?" Miranda Collins waved her hand. "Is this on the quiz?" He growled at her. "Not everything is on the quiz, but that doesn't mean it's not worth knowing."
I moved my arm closer and stared at the snail. "So why is this worth knowing?"
"Well, technically, this proves that an organism can turn autotrophic." He pointed at my arm. "Skin graft those snails all over your body in a sunny climate and eventually you wouldn't have to eat or drink ever again."
A few of the girls let out groans and prolonged ewwwws, while some of the boys laughed.
"No, thanks. I like cheeseburgers too much." I gently picked the snail off my arm and set it in the glass tank on Hogan's desk.
"Thanks, Mason." Hogan rolled back behind his desk as we took our seats. "Anyone heard of Giri Bala?"
Most of us either shook our heads or didn't respond at all.
With a remote, he turned on the projector, starting a black-and-white PowerPoint. The first grainy photo showed two old women wrapped in loose, robe-type garments. "This is India, 1936. The woman on the right is Giri Bala, born in 1868."
Jack Meacham sat across the aisle from me. We'd been best friends since kindergarten. Kids had kind of shied away when I stopped speaking, but Jack talked so much he didn't seem to notice I wasn't saying anything. And when we started doing stuff at my house or his, he realized I did have things to say. But in school, he spoke for both of us until fifth grade, when I finally started talking again. I'd gradually outgrown him, and everyone else, by about eighty pounds and six inches. Two pairs of his Levi's sewn together might just encase one of my thighs. He raised his hand. "Who was she?"
Hogan grinned. "You mean who is she?"
Jack glanced at me, and then lines appeared between his eyebrows. "If she was born in 1868, she'd be, like ..."
I could see him doing the math in his head. Although Jack had high aspirations to become a doctor, he struggled in school. Not for lack of trying. He was really smart but just had some kind of mental block on test days. He shook his head slightly. "Well, she'd be way over one hundred. Impossible."
"Maybe not." Hogan clasped his hands together. "At the time this photo was taken, Giri Bala had not eaten for fifty-six years."
The class erupted with sounds of disbelief. I even let loose with a "No way."
Holding up his hand for silence, Hogan explained. "She supposedly used a yoga technique that allowed her to get her energy from the sun. The leader of her province actually locked her in a room for several days with no food or water, and she was perfectly fine. And some people say she's still alive."
The next picture came up, a view of Moscow and the Kremlin. "There's a group of people living in Moscow who claim to be autotrophs. They started out as vegans, gradually stopped eating all food, and now claim they neither eat nor drink."
I shook my head as someone called out, "That's crazy."
"Maybe so." Hogan nodded. "But one scientist claims he can take a human, put him in a tropical climate, and turn his body into a living solar cell within two years."
Jack raised his hand. Even in classes like Hogan's, where we were allowed to just speak up if we had something productive to say, Jack still raised his hand every time he had something to say. "But why would you want to do that? Save your lunch money or something?"
Hogan smiled. "Think about it, Jack. Imagine having an army you don't have to feed or water."
The bell rang. "Don't forget, quiz on Monday!" A few groans erupted, and before I could get up, Hogan called my name. "See me after class."
I asked Jack if he could give me a ride home.
He nodded and said, "Meet you in the parking lot."
Everyone filed out and I went up to the front. Hogan held up a sheet I recognized, the application form for the TroDyn summer science program. He shook it at me. "You know the deadline is coming up for this?"
TroDyn Industries was a huge scientific complex on a hundred acres looking over Melby Falls. Mainly working on environmental sustainability projects, the company supported the town. Although they didn't employ many townspeople at their lab facilities, TroDyn owned most of the businesses, including the nursing home where my mom worked, and they paid for a lot of equipment and supplies at the school. I'd read about the summer program, and Hogan had told us about it several times. "My mom would never go for it. She's not a TroDyn fan." It might just be a case of not liking the company responsible for your sucky job, but she had no lack of bad things to say about them.
Hogan tapped the paper with a finger. "If you do the summer program, you'll have a good shot at the TroDyn scholarship." His eyes met mine, but not in a forced way. I mean, some people stare at my scar. I don't mind, at least it's honest, and when they've seen enough, they meet my eyes. But the ones who lock eyes with me, those are the dishonest ones. You can almost hear them chanting to themselves Don't look at his scar, don't look at his scar. Hogan's eyes met mine the way his eyes met anyone else's.
I shrugged. "I'm not really sure about college."
"Mason, come on." Hogan waved the paper. "You're one of the smartest kids I've ever had in class."
"Miranda Collins is smarter."
Hogan rolled his eyes. "I suspect Miranda Collins gets A's because she spends three hours a night memorizing textbooks. Probably polishes a lot of apples while she's at it. A potato could do that and get A's. You actually understand this stuff. You get it. You need to go to college and learn more."
I didn't say anything.
"They'll cover all your college expenses through grad school. They would pay for Stanford."
I rolled my eyes. "Like I'd get into Stanford."
"I've seen your standardized test scores. On the SAT, you'll smoke kids like Miranda Collins. You'll get in." He flipped the paper onto the desk, where it settled next to the stapler. "All they ask in return is that you commit to working five years in their labs."
Other than getting my mom on board, I didn't see the problem with that. I looked around at his biology room, my favorite place in the school. The shelves were lined with not only glossy books but pristine specimens in glass jars of whatever the liquid was that replaced formaldehyde. I'd always been drawn to the framed glass cases that housed expensive collections of bugs and butterflies and spiders. A bank of desktop computers lined one wall, and I knew them to be loaded with more biological research software than most college libraries held, courtesy of TroDyn.
I'd be lying to say I didn't want to go to college. I'd also be lying to say I didn't really really like biology. Going to Stanford to study biology, on a full ride no less, would be a dream come true. But it wasn't easy for me to put my dreams out for everyone to see. I preferred to keep them to myself so only I was disappointed when they didn't happen. That way, I didn't have to have people telling me how sorry they were for me. I'd had enough of that to last my entire life.
Trying to shift the focus, I asked, "Do they bribe you to talk kids into this?"
He held up his hands in a gesture of surrender. "You're right. I mean, you can probably get a scholarship another way. Not to Stanford, but you're the best offensive tackle Melby Falls has seen in a while."
I saw his point. "Yeah, that just might pay for my books at a junior college." I picked up the application, pretending to read as if I'd never seen it before, when actually there was one half filled out in my locker, plus three extras at home, hidden in my copy of last year's yearbook.
He leaned back. "Think about it."
"Okay." I smiled.
He shrugged. "Come on, Al Gore gave them that award last year for making progress with global warming research. They do a lot of good things up there. You could save the world someday."
"Yeah, right." I shoved the application into my biology book.
"Due Monday!" he called after me.
Out in the hall at my locker, I hooked my backpack on my arm and hoisted it over my shoulder. My locker clicked shut just as I heard one in the junior high hallway bang a couple of times. And then I heard a muffled cry.
In two steps, I was around the corner. Two smaller boys were up against the lockers as a bigger boy stood in front of them, a hand over one boy's mouth.
They all turned and looked at me. The bigger one dropped his hand and stepped back. I'd seen him around, was named Wendell or Walker or something like that.
The two against the lockers shook their heads while the other one crossed his arms. "Oh, hey, Mason. No, no problem."
Taking a few steps closer, I said, "To me, it looks like there's a problem."
The bigger kid's eyes darted around and he began backing away from me.
I told the smaller boys, "Go home."
They both nodded and ran as I walked toward the other kid and backed him into the wall. There were still a few feet between us, but he was breathing harder and his eyes were wide. And why not? Most kids who didn't know me very well kept their distance. I was big, and my scar made my face look scary. But I used it to my advantage on bullies like him.
"You need to leave those kids alone."
"Seriously. I catch you picking on anyone else ..." For effect, I made a fist and covered it with my other hand. "Got it?"
He didn't say anything, just ran off down the hall.
I smiled as I dropped my hands. Off the football field, I would never think of hurting anyone, but most people probably didn't know that. They just saw a big, Halloween-masked hulk of a guy. But what a rush, to save people. The first time was when I was in fifth grade. After school, I usually headed to the Bottoms, a forest walking trail. One day I heard someone calling for help. Going off the trail a ways, I found a couple of second-grade girls. They'd been messing around, playing by a pile of logs, and one girl had gotten her foot caught. So I managed to roll the log off and carried the girl all the way back to the school. Her grandma was one of the teachers, and I got my picture in the paper. That part was kind of weird. I don't like my picture getting taken, and I made sure to turn my head so only my good side showed. The coolest part for me was just seeing the relief on the face of the grandma when she hugged the kids, especially when things could have turned out differently. Being responsible for the happy ending made me happy.
After that, I saved people every chance I got.
Outside, there was a light drizzle, and I jogged to where Jack waited for me in his red truck, Deep Purple turned up so high that I'd heard it the second I'd stepped outside. "Thanks for waiting." Jack and I shared a lot of the same tastes, including the one for old rock music.
I reached over and turned the volume up even more.
Although he got the Ford for his birthday a couple of months before, the inside still smelled new. His dad owned a chain of plumbing supply stores in the Pacific Northwest; Jack was rich and could pay for any college he got into. But with his grades, the problem was getting in. So he worried about things like SAT scores while I worried about my bank account.
I asked, "What time are we leaving?"
Jack's family owned a cabin up in Glenwood, at the foot of Mount Adams, and we planned to head up there for the weekend to go ATV'ing. Not only did they own a batch of the finest new Arctic Cats, they also had acres and acres of trails to ride around on. Plus, it was the first weekend we'd be going since Jack got his license, our first weekend out of town on our own.
But as he pulled out of the parking lot, he said, "We'll have to wait and go tomorrow. I just got called in to work."
"So don't go." I drew circles in the fog on my window. "It's not like you need the money."
"Turn down an extra shift at the Haven of Peace?" If he did get into college, Jack planned to go premed. Can't say he didn't aim high. So when he turned sixteen, he took a job as an orderly at the same nursing home where my mom worked. He turned into my driveway and let the Ford idle. "Besides, I'm saving up to take Miranda Collins to prom." He also got a hefty allowance, so I doubt he would have to save up for long.
I made a face. "She's such a brown-noser. You haven't said one word to her since she tore up your valentine in sixth grade."
He grinned. "I admire her ... um ... intelligence from afar."
"Intelligence my ass."
Jack laughed. "And destiny is on my side."
"You've been saying that since sixth grade. Destiny hasn't helped you get a girl yet, dude."
He reached over and punched me. "With all this rain, we probably can't do most of the trails anyway."
The only problem with the area around Jack's cabin was that the trails were steep and did get treacherous in downpours like we'd been having. I told him, "I still wanna get out of town. We can always just play Halo."
When he reached my driveway, I said, "Call me if you get off early." I got out and slammed the door.
I waved my hand without looking back.
Inside, the house was quiet. "Mom? You home?" I waited for a response, but there was none, so I made a couple of bologna sandwiches and sat down at the table, pulling my biology book and the slightly wrinkled TroDyn application out of my backpack. Mom wouldn't be as supportive as Hogan. I'd decided my plan was to forge her signature and tell her I got a job for the summer. I knew her signature was always handy on the fridge in the form of that month's rent check, pinned in place by a strawberry-shaped magnet. But the check wasn't there.
I knelt and looked around the floor first, then up at the calendar. The twenty-eighth. Wow, she must have paid rent early for once.
Excerpted from The Gardener by S. A. Bodeen. Copyright © 2010 S. A. Bodeen. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
S. A. BODEEN’S first novel, The Compound, earned her a “Flying Start” from Publishers Weekly and was chosen by YALSA as a Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers. She lives in Oregon with her family.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Will there ever be a day when the world runs out of food? What if the entire planet was facing starvation? Should scientists be trying anything and everything to find a solution to this possible problem? Some think they should. The reader will know, just by looking at the cover, what the major plot of the story involves and that, paired with the very clear foreshadowing in the beginning chapters, leaves no question. S.A. Bodeen again deals with controversial issues involving medical ethics like she did in THE COMPOUND. Mason doesn't know his father. The closest Mason has come to seeing him is a video of his dad reading The Runaway Bunny, but even the video doesn't show his father's face - only his hands turning the pages of the book. The only visible, distinguishing mark is a blue butterfly tattoo on his father's arm. Mason's uneventful life is transformed one night when he goes to confront his mother about the secrets she's been keeping. His mother works at a nursing home, so he is surprised to find she is taking care of four comatose teenagers. After his mother is called away for a meeting, Mason puts in the video of his father reading The Runaway Bunny. He is shocked when one of the teenagers starts talking - a beautiful girl about his age. She is scared to death and feels the need to escape, and Mason can't stand the thought of abandoning her. The events that follow lead Mason and the girl into unknown territory. She doesn't remember much about where she came from or even her name. The only thing she knows is the intense fear she feels when she thinks about going back and seeing the Gardener, but when her health starts failing Mason has no choice but to take her back. What he discovers changes his life forever. I was hoping THE GARDENER would be creepier than it was. It really had the potential to be...after all, the tag on the cover says, "This Greenhouse...Grows Humans." Come on, doesn't that sound creepy? THE GARDENER is a fast-paced story, and even though I wanted it to be scarier, it was still fun to read.
The best part of this book for me was the strong male's point of view. Not that Mason never showed emotion because he did, though it never came across as cheesy or over the top. He does have his issues, quite a few actually. However, I didn't feel that he was really whiny about them. Mostly he just seemed matter of fact. Like this is the life I've been dealt, now let's deal with it. I think the issue that he has the most trouble with is not knowing anything about his father. Luckily, he has a great best friend Jack, and he helps Mason maintain some fun and spontaneity in his otherwise boring small town life. Jack also tries to keep Mason grounded when things take a turn for the strange. The Gardener was a fast paced read that left me thinking about the world and the things we do in the name of science for days after I had read it. I definitely recommend it, especially if you enjoy speculative fiction (Fiction that extrapolates from some phenomenon or theory and postulates "What if?".) If you are looking for a guy to love, some romance on the run, twisted with a bit of mystery, then I think you will enjoy this as much as I did.
Well written and enjoyable book. Bodeen book stretches current technology only slightly for the concept and keeps everything in a grey area between good and evil. I found it interesting and just long enough to make it and easy and fun read that kept my interest all the way to the end.
I totally love this book. Many twists and turns. Kinda creepy in a good way.
The Gardener was an intriguing, fast-paced adventure! S.A. Bodeen's approach to Mason was well-written and helped me establish a means of his character. In his younger years, he was attacked by a dog and lived with the constant attention to his facial scar. I sympathized with Mason off the bat and gained respect for his courageous attitude. Once he visited his mother's job in the nursing home, his ability to roll with the punches surfaced. A girl, who he was automatically attracted to, snaps out of an awkward trance by the voice of his father reading on a DVD. His initial instinct was to get her help by escaping from the Gardener who she continually brings up. Half of the book questioned who this mysterious Gardener was and why this girl was lost and confused. As the answers unraveled I couldn't believe the scientific experiments that went on behind closed doors. I don't want to give too much away but the creativity behind the theory of creating humans to be autotrophs was fascinating. I just wished Bodeen would of presented this experiment with a little more detail. During the runaway period, Mason and the special young lady formed a bond which I thought was sweet. My only negative aspect was the cover's false premise. It didn't actually live up to my expectations to a thrilling Sci-fi. However, The Gardener's plot was still an innovative approach to the slow destruction of our world. I might not agree with it but, I truly thought it was an original idea from start to finish. Finally, I enjoyed this novel and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
From what I have read about the book, I thought it would be good. After I read the book I was very disappointed. The author could of done better with the book entirely. I simply did not expect it the way it would turn out either for the plot. If I would of known of how the story was in the first place I would of not bought the book. A waste of money .
This book displays a creative blend of science fiction with real places, events, and theories. The confusing high school life Mason lives by is displayed beautifully in Bodeen's novel. Mason, of whom has a scar on his face from a dog attack as a young boy, has never met, nor remembers his father, as his father is revealed to have only been around when Mason was very young. Mason is offered a scholarship to a scientific organization known as TroDyn. His mother forbids him from accepting, however, Mason finds that something about his mother's work is a little... off. His mother works with four kids, of whom sit and stare, lifelessly, at a television screen. According to their records, they have some form of brain damage. Mason finds himself attracted to one of the kids, a girl his age, however she is as comatose as the other three kids. That is, until he plays the disc of his father reading to him, which snaps the girl out of her trance. The girl insists that they escape for fear someone or something is after her. This book was probably the one of the most enjoyable Summer reading books I've ever read, and I highly suggest reading it whenever the chance is given.
Mason is like many other teenagers - he lives with his Mom in a small town. Only his town is owned by a large corporation called TroDyn, which produces genetically altered plants in the name of sustainability. The only thing he knows about his father comes from a DVD of his Dad reading him a children's book. Other than that, he has never met the man before. Then one day he discovers his Mom is hiding her past from him and goes to confront her at Haven of Peace, her place of work. From there, Mason meets the most beautiful (and curious) girl he has ever seen, and the adventure of his lifetime takes off. In the following twenty-four hours, Mason will learn about himself, his family, the new girl he loves, and will find himself confronting some very complicated situations. Like many other readers, I have been into the whole dystopian-lit trend as of late, so this was an anticipated read. The Gardener has a creepy and cool premise that will get readers to think about the food supply around them. There were times in the story that I thought were a little too contrived, such as Mason learning about autotroph snails in Biology class the day before rescuing a genetically similar girl, or the fact that there just so happened to be a free ATV for Mason and Jack to use right when they needed an escape. Additionally, in that sense the plot was enormously predictable. All that aside however, and this was a fast-paced, easy-to-understand science fiction read. I especially liked the scene in Portland's very own Powell's Bookstore. Yay for Powell's! The Gardener would also be a great pick for the reluctant male reader. S.A. Bodeen is definitely an author to watch.
Kadin Barrani Book review The Gardener A boy has only one thing that he is longing for, and that is to see his father again. He never understood why he has never seen his father before, but he does not mind at all. He only wants to see what his dad is like. While in class on his first day of school, he learns about a slug that is an autotroph, and does not need to eat or drink any liquids at all. This spikes his curiosity. His teacher explains that is humans has a skin graft from the slug, they would be able to have these abilities afterwards. After this foreshadowing, he comes across something that is beyond detrimental. As it turns out, his life is turned upside down, and on the way, he learns a few things about his father. I enjoyed this book, because it has a sort of science fiction touch that could be realistic. It had fantastic commentary about biology in general, but it also has a few scenes that will get your mind racing about what will happen next. If this does not strike your imagination about theoretical concepts that could possibly solve any world hunger crisis that might arise, you can still enjoy the dialogue. This has always intrigued me to ponder on what life could be alike to if we were to set our sights towards what might seem as ludicrous goals. With this idea in mind, it also has great dialogue with simple enough grammar that you can get lost in the book, page by page until the book is complete.
A little bit on the creepy side at the ed but it is really good! S. A. Bodeen is a really good author and Ive read most of erbookd hic have all been really good. The Raft, Compound, Fallout and The Gardner are all really good. Cant wait or the Detour to come out!
Worst book I ever read in my short 11year life.
This is a great book!!!!!!!!! I <3 the middle!!!!!! I think bit is a great choice of words. It is so sad though. Just to hink that this might someday happen to us is just horrifying!!!! To think we might eventualy have to become plants to survive starvation? WOW!!!! The book is right though. War will end us before starvation does, but I would still never think of giving up my child for torture like that even if it could possibly keep the generation alive after stavation. As the book said, Cuba survived by growing gardens. I think we would too. Just let me tell you, there is a.... SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!! Sorry. Bye!!!!! Read it. Ireccomend it. If that isn't enough then remember that it got picked for the Mark Twain Reading Program. It eill more than likely win. See ya!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Its the kind if book that you wish was a trilogy. Its quite goooood
This book is rediculously awesome. I would recomend rhis book ro anyone and usually i dont read so that tells you something. I love the mix of mystery and love in the book now im anxious for the next book!
Omg amazing! I loved it i wish they made a number too tho to she if she was nomal and to see if they were together forever..
A heartpuller for all
This book is great!!!!!
I am curently reading this book my teacher choose it.
S.A. Bodeen is a very intellegent writer can't wait till the second book comes out.
I loved the idea of modifying humans so they could perform photosynthesis. Very smart though might not work in real life
Although I have read better books, I could not seem to put this book down. If you are going to buy this book it is fast paced!!! I have a quick mind and got the book easily but, my friend was a little slow and had to backtrack a couple of times but all and all this book should be on your must read list.