Replication: The Jason Experiment
This science fiction book by Jill Williamson is published by ZonderKids, a division of Zondervan, a HarperCollins company, and is written for kids ages 13 to 18. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Less than a year after cancer kills Abby Goyer's mom, her dad, Dr. Goyer, abruptly tells her he's taken a job in Alaska. Her father is a research scientist. Once they move, he works long hours and won't talk much about his new job at Jason Farms. Seventeen-year-old Abby tries to concentrate on her new school and her academics, and sort through her mixed emotions about her gorgeous but egotistical classmate, JD Kane.
Meanwhile, Dr. Goyer is discovering the truth about the studies taking place at the highly protected lab where he works. The lead scientist, Dr. Kane, has cloned more than 50 "Jasons." Dr. Kane and his co-workers do rigorous experiments and drug trials on these cloned Jasons. They are each assigned a number and live in prison-like conditions underground. Their heads are shaved weekly. They are given an education, but distractions such as color are forbidden. The young men often receive beatings or must succumb to painful experiments as punishment for veering from the rules. They're told the air outside their facility is toxic, so they cannot leave. The scientists tell them their noble purpose is to make the world safer for others. The Jasons know that on their 18th birthdays, their individual work will be done, and they will "expire."
Though the Jasons are clones, many have different personalities. Some are hostile and aggressive. Others, the "brokens," are malformed or can't talk. A clone called J:3:3 (nicknamed Martyr) sometimes gets himself in trouble for defending the brokens against bullies. He feels it's his job to protect those who can't protect themselves. Martyr is an inquisitive young man known for his honesty. He's proud to be serving the world in such an important capacity. As his expiration date nears, though, Martyr desperately wants to experience something he's heard about from his professors: He wants to see the sky.
When Martyr meets Dr. Goyer and discovers the new scientist is kind, he asks for help in achieving his final wish. Though it pains Dr. Goyer to do so, he refuses. The desperate Martyr acts out of character, stealing Dr. Goyer's key card to sneak out that night. In mid-escape, Martyr overhears several scientists talking about using his kidneys for a transplant. Confused, Martyr continues his ascent to the outside world. When he gets there and sees the darkness, he's disoriented. He hides in the back of Dr. Goyer's truck, just before the doctor drives off.
Abby gets paired with JD on a genetics project. While JD's main concern seems to be seducing her, she's surprised by his passion for their topic: treatments and cures for lupus. She's disturbed by his contention that laws should allow more clinical drug testing on humans. When Dr. Goyer comes home and sees JD in the house studying, he's visibly shaken. He asks the boy to leave. Abby goes upstairs and finds a young man hiding in her room. He looks exactly like JD, but his head is shaved. When she's finally convinced he isn't JD, Abby listens to Martyr's story and begins to comprehend the appalling experimentation going on at her father's new workplace. She confronts her father, who has always placed scientific conquest before morality or ethics. Even he agrees that the experiments at Jason Farms must be stopped.
Abby quickly grows fond of Martyr. He's got all of JD's attractiveness without any of the ego or insincerity. After praying over a meal, she tells Martyr he has a Creator who loves him. She asks a youth pastor, the brother of her friend Kylee, to hide Martyr. Martyr reads part of the Bible and asks the pastor numerous questions about the Creator of everything. He reads 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and determines that Abby is the embodiment of love. He learns about marriage from the pastor and decides he wants to marry Abby.
The pastor sees Martyr and JD side by side and starts to believe Abby's clone story. JD beats up Martyr. He is angry and confused to see another person who looks so much like him. Abby explains to JD that his father, Dr. Kane, has cloned himself. He's hoping to find a cure for his lupus or at least a kidney donor. She believes JD is a clone, too.
Abby teaches Martyr how to pray and ask the Creator into his heart. As he's praying aloud for forgiveness, he apologizes for not saving Dr. Woman. He later explains Dr. Woman was the only female at his facility. Some of the older Jasons started noticing her physical differences and desperately wanted to touch her. Since Dr. Woman liked Martyr, the older Jasons used him as bait to get her near. Then they held her down and brutalized her until she died. Martyr regrets his inability to save her.
The police capture Martyr and turn him over to Dr. Kane, who claims Martyr is his beloved but mentally unstable son. Abby breaks into Jason Farms to find Martyer and her dad, who hasn't been responding to her phone calls. The police arrive to help, but they're unable to get into the building immediately without security cards. Inside, Martyr convinces the other Jasons that the scientists have lied to them. The clones work together to destroy Dr. Kane's files by setting the computer room on fire. Abby, still looking for her father, helps guide the other Jasons to safety. Dr. Kane is injured with his own gun in an escape attempt. In spite of all the damage he's done, Martyr donates a kidney to him and saves his life. The government sets up a home for the clones, asking Dr. Goyer to run it with Abby and Martyr's help.
Mrs. Goyer's faith was a point of contention in her marriage. Abby's dad didn't like his wife throwing her money away on tithing. Her faith and ethical behavior frequently clashed with his scientific mind-set. Abby is a Christian. Her mother always told her it was up to the two of them to show her father how to love God. Abby was in a church youth group before moving to Alaska. Her dad, whom she says has "God issues," allows her to go on a youth group trip before announcing their move.
In her new home, Abby prays for Christian friends. She thanks God when she meets one named Kylee. Kylee's brother is a youth pastor at a community church. Kylee and Abby debate JD on research ethics, arguing that human testing is wrong and that embryonic stem cell research is human testing. She prays as she debates her father about Martyr's humanity, and she hears a voice telling her to be still. She also tries to explain her faith in God to her father. She points out that people like him and the other scientists may act unethically out of fear, but that God's plans will always win out. She prays for God's guidance as they prepare to talk to the police.
Abby prays before eating, which provides an open door to telling Martyr about God. She describes God to him as the Creator of everything. She says only He, not doctors, can give Martyr a purpose. Martyr begins to pray on his own, seeking his purpose in God's plan. Abby explains what it means to be born again. She teaches him to pray a prayer asking Jesus into his life. Martyr prays throughout the evacuation of the lab. He wonders if God will forgive him for destroying Dr. Kane's files and hitting one of the other Jasons in self-defense. In spite of his evil deeds, Dr. Kane receives a life-saving kidney from Martyr. Martyr willingly gives the kidney because that's what Jesus would have done. He quotes the book of Luke concerning loving one's enemies. In the end, Dr. Goyer sheepishly admits to Abby that he's been praying.
Other Belief Systems
Before Mrs. Goyer died, Dr. Goyer worked with a team of scientists who were looking for cancer cures. The government shut down Dr. Goyer's lab because the researchers were using illegally obtained embryos and fetal tissue. JD thinks embryonic stem cell research is a perfect option for studying diseases. He complains that religious types keep it from happening. Dr. Goyer tells Abby that since clones aren't really human, killing them isn't murder.
Dr. Kane clones himself over 50 times, creating the Jasons in his lab. His son, JD, is also a clone. JD is different in that he was a gift to Dr. Kane's wife. When she was unable to have a child, he used her as JD's surrogate.
Dr. Kane is a misogynist, who claims women are physically and emotionally weak. He says they can be taken advantage of and can cause disorder, which is why he no longer wants them working for him. He takes a sample of Abby's blood, telling her he will sell it for cloning purposes if she gives him trouble. He also threatens, in front of Abby's father, to use her as a surrogate if she misbehaves.
Guards at Jason Farms beat and taze clones, even if their behavior doesn't warrant punishment. Scientists administer painful drugs to the clones, sometimes for their own sick pleasure. JD attacks and punches Martyr several times, threatening to kill Martyr if he touches Abby. Martyr tells Abby about a young female doctor who was brutally killed by some of the Jasons. The extent of their actions toward her is not described in detail, but Martyr indicates that they "broke" her until she died.
A jock, flirting with Abby, uses the line, "If I said you had a great body, would you hold it against me?" Martyr kisses his broken friend's forehead, the way Dr. Woman once kissed his. In anger, JD pins Abby and kisses her hard, against her will. Martyr kisses Abby gently on the forehead. She kisses him back on the lips, but realizes she probably shouldn't have since she hasn't known him long. When Dr. Kane is about to take Martyr away, he asks Abby to kiss him since it made him feel better before. They also kiss before Martyr sends Abby out of Jason Farms, just before he prepares to save the others. While Martyr gets cleaned up, Abby's friend Kylee jokes that she can't believe JD's clone is naked in her shower.
Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at ThrivingFamily.com/discuss-books.
Lying: Both Martyr and Abby note that lying usually makes things worse. Martyr hates lying and deceit so much that it almost makes him physically ill. When JD acts as if studying lupus for their project is no big deal to him, Abby can tell he's lying. Abby and Dr. Goyer lie to the police to keep Martyr safe. Abby fears, as a Christian, she's set a bad example for her dad with these lies.
Dating Safeguards/Modesty: Abby notes that her goals in high school do not include dating. She wears ponytails, little makeup and a purity ring so as not to give out mixed signals. She makes several efforts to put the flirtatious JD in his place, and she invites Kylee to study with them so she won't be home alone with JD.
Disrespect: When angry with her dad, Abby sometimes only "talks" to him via texting. While she's justified in her frustration about him never being home and participating in unethical activities, she often raises her voice and talks back rudely.
Suicide: JD injects himself with a syringe, assuming the substance within is lethal. He's overwhelmed to discover he's a clone, so he ceases to value his life.
Disturbing images: Martyr says some of the clones have misshapen appendages. He tells Abby they keep one Jason who never grew legs in a glass box, and he moans most of the time.
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Readability Age Range
13 to 18
ZonderKids, a division of Zondervan, a HarperCollins company