Taylor Five

Taylor Five

by Ann Halam

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A gripping, deeply moving adventure raises startling questions about what it means to be human.

Taylor Walker seems like any ordinary 14-year-old. Ordinary—if you overlook the fact that she lives on the island of Borneo, on a primate reserve run by her parents, and knows how to survive in the jungle. Obviously, Tay isn’t just like everyone else.


A gripping, deeply moving adventure raises startling questions about what it means to be human.

Taylor Walker seems like any ordinary 14-year-old. Ordinary—if you overlook the fact that she lives on the island of Borneo, on a primate reserve run by her parents, and knows how to survive in the jungle. Obviously, Tay isn’t just like everyone else. But she is like one other person. She’s exactly like one other person. Tay is a clone, one of only five in the world, and her clone mother is Pam Taylor, a brilliant scientist.

When rebels attack the reserve, Tay escapes with her younger brother and Uncle, an exceptionally intelligent orangutan. As they flee through the jungle, Tay must look within to find her strength: Pam’s DNA, tempered by Taylor’s extraordinary life. And she looks to Uncle for guidance—for Tay knows that the uncanny bond between Uncle and herself is the key to their survival.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This mostly taut but ultimately disappointing sci-fi thriller opens with a complex, riveting set-up. Taylor Walker, 14, lives with her parents, wardens of an orangutan refuge in Kandah State, an independent nation "squashed" between Malaysia and Indonesia. A year and a half ago, Taylor learned that she is actually a clone-as are four other children born at the same time, to parents who worked for the same company as the Walkers. As the novel opens, news of the company's success in cloning has been announced to the media, although Taylor's identity has been kept secret. Taylor's genetic "mother" is someone she's known for years, a famous scientist. Before Taylor can come to grips with this development, regional fighting intrudes upon the refuge and the story takes a very dark turn. Soon Tay is on the run with only the super-intelligent orangutan Uncle for company, and-anguished about the fates of those in the refuge, as well as hungry, exhausted and desperate to reach safety-she begins to speculate about the source of his mysterious intellect. As in her Dr. Franklin's Island, Halam (a pseudonym for Gwyneth Jones) conjures the atmosphere so tensely that readers will be white-knuckled. Unfortunately, she also leads the audience down one too many garden paths, planting suspicions which she then uproots much too easily. Readers may wish for a more focused approach to the many provocative issues and premises here. Ages 10-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Lifeforce is a revolutionary company that has unlocked the secrets of preventing disease and aging. They have also created five clones who have grown up to be teenagers. Taylor is clone number five. Taylor hasn't always known her origins; that her DNA perfectly matches with someone else. Her parents loved her and only told her as much as she was ready to hear. Then, when she is 14, the cloning news goes public, and Taylor becomes international news. Taylor grew up with her family on the island of Borneo. Her parents ran an orangutan reserve owned by Lifeforce (the company that created Taylor). Taylor and her younger brother Donny are as comfortable with the jungle and the orangutans as they are with people. But their lives are changed forever when a rebel group attacks the reserve. The only adult they can turn to for help is Uncle, an orangutan whose intelligence makes him seem almost human. As Taylor struggles to survive, she also searches to know what it means to be a copy of someone else and what it means to be human. She finds her answers in unexpected places. 2004, Wendy Lamb Books, 197 pp., Ages young adult.
—Holli Keel
Taylor Five is not having a good week. Although her brother has returned to the orangutan reserve in Borneo, his homecoming is marred by reports of human clones. Taylor has known for a long time that she is a clone, and now the rest of the world knows of her special existence as well. After Taylor and her brother go for a hike, her life is further disrupted and threatened. Rebels invade the camp, kill and kidnap the adults (including her parents), and set fire to the reserve. Taylor is forced to run with her brother and a camp mascot orangutan called Uncle to the far side of the island to meet her "clone mother," Pam. This scenario really begins the adventure. Taylor struggles to survive, endures sorrow and pain, and copes with what it means to be a clone while gaining strength from her genes. The issues of human cloning-both what it means ethically and to the clone-are presented in a manner easy for the most nonscientific reader to understand. The environmental issues that the reserve and the politics of Borneo introduce are only hinted at, but the various issues are used to keep the plot moving at a fast pace. Halam might pack too much into this adventure to fully explore the issues that arise, but it makes for a fast, exciting read that younger teens will enjoy. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P M J (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2004, Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 208p., Ages 11 to 15.
—Mary Ann Harlan
Children's Literature
Taylor knows she is different. Her mum and dad told her years ago that she was a test tube baby. It is not until she is 14 years old that Taylor learns the truth about her existence: she is one of five human clones. Taylor is filled with resentment when the existence of human clones is splashed across newspaper headlines. However, her resentment is soon pushed aside by an attack on the orangutan preserve in the fictional Kandah State. Here Taylor lives with her mum and dad—employees of Lifeforce, a biotech company—and her brother Donny. After the attack, Taylor and Donny set out on a journey to safety with Uncle, a faithful orangutan with human characteristics. The hardships they endure may be overwhelming to more sensitive readers. The plotline begs the question: is this story about human cloning, or the preservation of orangutans in their natural habitat? Although it is Taylor's "twin," Pam Taylor, another Lifeforce employee, who will save Taylor's life, the issue of human cloning and the survival of orangutans compete for the reader's attention. Science fiction fans will appreciate Taylor's perspective on the issue of cloning. An author's note provides additional information on the fictional setting in Borneo, and the plight of orangutans in the rain forests. 2004, Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, Ages 12 to 16.
—Mary Loftus
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-This fast-moving novel explores timely questions from the point of view of 14-year-old clone Taylor Walker. Tay is named after scientist Pam Taylor, her clone mother, someone she used to admire but from whom she has grown increasingly estranged since finding out the truth about her birth. She lives with her adoptive parents and their biological son, Donny, on the island of Borneo, where they operate a private reserve and study orangutans. After rebel forces attack the refuge, Tay and Donny escape with Uncle, an orangutan that she believes is superintelligent. While Uncle can't save Donny, who dies from a gunshot-wound-induced fever, he does lead Tay close enough to civilization so that Pam can rescue her. The two eventually reconcile as Tay, one of five now-teenaged clones, learns more about the discoveries made long ago by Pam and her parents, and the fact that these breakthroughs were able to finance the important conservation work that had occupied them in recent years. Scientific background and issues about the ethics of cloning are easily incorporated into an action-packed survival story.-Ellen Fader, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"What does it mean to be a clone? How is a clone supposed to feel?" Taylor Walker, one of five teenaged clones, feels like a stranger, a "famous freak," a triumph of modern technology. Are you fully human if you're just a copy of another human being? Or maybe Tay's father is right: "It's not the DNA, it's what you do with it." Tay lives in an orangutan refuge on the north coast of Borneo in one of the last great rainforests. Orangutans have a natural habitat, Tay feels, but what is the natural habitat of a clone? A lab? When rebel activity strikes the refuge, tragedy changes Tay's life forever. After the death of her parents, she resolves to do what any human wants: to live, "to have an amazing life." The third-person narrative has more explanation than action, but the bold concept makes this a good match with Nancy Farmer's stronger work, The House of the Scorpion. (Fiction. 10+)

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Random House Children's Books
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10 Years

Read an Excerpt


Mum and Dad couldn't come to the airport to meet Donny, but that was okay: he would understand. Lucia Fernandez the graduate student came with Tay instead. They were in luck on Airport Road and got through the police checkpoints with no delay, which meant they had ages to wait before the plane from Singapore arrived. Lucia found someone to talk to. Tay walked around, looking at the familiar souvenir shops, sniffing the spicy-food scents from the cafeteria bar--a thin girl with golden-brown hair, wearing a blue cotton dress, a Yankees baseball cap and desert boots. She felt nervous. This was the first time she'd been in a public place since the story broke. No one was supposed to know who she was, but she almost expected a horde of journalists to leap out, waving cameras and microphones. Thankfully, no one paid any attention. Here in the sleepy quiet of a tiny tropical airport, no one knew or cared that Taylor Walker was one of the five teenagers whose existence had just been announced, who were the most astonishing people on the planet.

Donny and Tay had lived in Kandah State, a small independent country on the north coast of the giant island of Borneo, since Donny was five and Tay was seven. Their parents were the wardens of an orangutan refuge, out in the wilds of one of the last great rain forests. Ben and Mary Walker both worked for an international company called Lifeforce, which financed the refuge. To some people it would have seemed a hard and lonely life for the two English children, but they loved it. The forest was such a fantastic place to live. It had been a cruel blow when their parents had decided Donny had to go to school in Singapore, but it was fine now. They just looked forward through each term to having a brilliant time together in the holidays.

Would things be different this summer?

Tay visited the cheap stalls, with the stacks of ugly imitation Dyak carvings that never seemed to get sold; and the instant tailoring shop, where the Chinese tailor women whizzed the cloth through their sewing machines at incredible speed. Donny won't be different, she kept telling herself. He won't care. But she had butterflies in her stomach.

There was a sarong that she would really have liked to buy for Mum, in Mrs. Su's Genuine Dyak Crafts Centre. It was heavy and handwoven, with swirls and thorny curves in gold thread, on shades of dark red silk. Tay's mum hardly ever got a chance to wear anything but jungle kit, but she loved beautiful clothes. Mrs. Su, the Chinese lady who owned the shop, came over as Tay stroked the shimmering folds, with a smile that showed all the gold in her teeth. She took the sarong and deftly unfolded it.

"Ve'y nice? Eh?"

"It's lovely," sighed Tay.

"You old customer, young lady. I make you a special price. Not New York price, not airport price. Nah real price."

Tay knew that even the "real price" of the best handwoven gold-thread work was way beyond her means. "I can't afford it, Mrs. Su. I've only got six hundred dollars left in my bank account, and I owe most of it to my dad."

Six hundred Kandah dollars meant about fifty English pounds. "Ha," said Mrs. Su, and shook her head. "Okay, you tell your daddy, huh? Mrs. Su got the best silk work, special price. You here to meet your brother, home from school, eh?"

Tay grinned. "Yes." Most of the foreigners who lived in Kandah were oilies, oil rig people, or chippies, which meant they worked for the logging companies; and they didn't stay long. The Walkers had been at the refuge for seven years. Mrs. Su knew Donny and Tay well. Whenever they came to the airport they came into her shop, to talk to her: and she gave them strange, hard Chinese candies.

The old lady folded up the sarong. "Why you never go to school, Tay, you so grown up now? Don't want an education?"

"I'm getting an education," said Tay. "I work at home, that's all."

"Huh. A smart girl like you: ought to be in school. Got to learn to compete, make your way, be tough. Some things you can't learn from books."

That will never be me, thought Tay. I will never be like other girls, going to school, hanging out, being normal. I'll always be different, always hoping people don't find out the truth--

"What wrong?" said the old lady, peering at Tay. Mrs. Su didn't miss much. "You don't take offense at old Mrs. Su? You got a pain?"

"No, Mrs. Su," said Tay. "I'm just worried about something."

Mrs. Su sighed and nodded as she put the sarong back on the display shelf.

"Ah, understand. Your mother and father worried, everyone worried, even children now. Hard times for me too. No one buying. Hard times for everyone."

Tay went out of the shop, but not before Mrs. Su had insisted she take a handful of brightly wrapped sweets from the jar by the cash register. The afternoon plane from Singapore had arrived, and the passengers were streaming into the arrivals hall. For a moment Tay felt a weird jolt of fear. Something had gone wrong, because she couldn't see Donny. . . . But no, she was being stupid. There he was, talking to some people he must have met on the plane. He saw her, and his whole face lit up.

"Hey! There's my sister!"

He came bouncing out of the crowd and leapt up to her, grinning from ear to ear, a twelve-year-old boy with blue eyes and black hair and the personality of a crazy puppy. They hugged and backed off so that they could look at each other.

"I'm taller than you!" he crowed. "I knew I'd be taller than you, these holidays."

"Nearly," said Tay, measuring, and finding her nose still about half a centimeter higher. "Nearly as tall, and twice as daft." They gripped hands, did the special Tay and Donny twist of their locked fists, broke the grip and knocked knuckles. It was a ritual they had invented years ago, which always had to be used at important moments.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Ann Halam writes adult science fiction and fantasy books under the name Gwyneth Jones.

From the Hardcover edition.

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