The media can have a profound impact on society. We are heavily influenced by the way the media reports current events. The right combination of images and spin can sway the public one way or the other. The spin can make society to fear what they don’t understand. But how much of what we see and hear is actually the whole truth?
That was the pressing question in my mind as I read Uninvited. Sophie Jordan’s new novel follows Davy Hamilton, the perfect daughter and a prodigy with innate musical gifts and promise, until she is diagnosed with Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS). The gene is discovered through mandatory testing, changing her life and the future she planned. Davy is uninvited from her prep school and sent to a special class for other teens like her, where she has to grapple with everything she lost and find a way to accept her new place in the world.
Uninvited calls into question just how susceptible we are to fear. That fear can make us alienate our fellow man just because they are different. Historically, humans have committed these crimes, primarily during World War II when Japanese-Americans were put into internment camps. Uninvited puts a different spin on the same issue. When faced with HTS threats, Americans isolate HTS carriers from society by putting them in detention camps. The less violent carriers are forced to face off against their more violent counterparts. This leads Davy into a series of unfortunate events she is ill-equipped to handle.
Uninvited makes me wonder just how much influence the media has over society. People with HTS are treated like monsters because that is the way the media portrays them. Davy is a prime example of how a good person is forced to change because of the fear society experiences. As the story progresses, readers quickly discover that Davy doesn’t have a single violent bone in her body, yet these unusual circumstances force her to defend herself and her friends in sometimes violent ways. It becomes matter of survival.
Davy remains insistent that she will not be like other HTS carriers, which makes readers question the validity of her test results, and the results of others. The media creates fear of carriers, but it is plausible that some of those who test positive only commit violent crimes because of they are cornered by society. Jordan injects small media clips of carriers who, like Davy, just want to have a normal life. In an attempt to escape something horrible, they commit a single violent crime. It is conceivable that the tests are not as accurate as people are led to believe.
Sadly, the book leaves all of these pressing questions unanswered. Instead, it focuses on Davy’s angst about her new lot in life for the first 200 pages. Jordan spends more time letting Davy wallow in self-pity than she does empowering her. It isn’t until a national tragedy—committed by HTS carriers—hits the news that Davy is forced to accept her new place.
The one major let-down in the book is the overwhelming disappointment with Jones’ decision to focus less on the statement she could have made about the media and more on teenage angst. All of my questions were left unanswered. All of my initial excitement about reading what appeared to be a potential thriller was dashed. The blurb promised a pulse-raising page turner, and it just didn’t carry through. Instead, Jordan slowly weaves a story about a girl unable to survive her new life alone. All potential for statements about the capabilities and limits of human society as influenced by media were left dangling.
Though there are two more books to come, the slow pacing and teen angst in the first novel doesn’t lend readers toward the next two. We just don’t care enough about Davy to invest the time.