Published by Entangled Teen on 9/1/15
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)
Meet Morgan Dey, one of the top teen Reducers at The Body Institute.
Thanks to cutting-edge technology, Morgan can temporarily take over another girl’s body, get her in shape, and then return to her own body—leaving her client slimmer, more toned, and feeling great. Only there are a few catches…
For one, Morgan won’t remember what happens in her “Loaner” body. Once she’s done, she won’t recall walks with her new friend Matt, conversations with the super-cute Reducer she’s been text-flirting with, or the uneasy feeling she has that the director of The Body Institute is hiding something. Still, it’s all worth it in the name of science. Until the glitches start…
Suddenly, residual memories from her Loaner are cropping up in Morgan’s mind. She’s feeling less like herself and more like someone else. And when protests from an anti–Body Institute organization threaten her safety, she’ll have to decide if being a Reducer is worth the cost of her body and soul…
The Body Institute is a truly unique sci fi dystopian YA novel. I loved the concept behind it and thought it was executed really well. This is one of those books that really makes you think – and you know how I love that! I’m not going to bother summarizing this one (you can read the blurb for that). Instead I’ll move right on to my review.
What I loved:
- The unique concept. As soon as I read the blurb for this book, I was hooked and I was really hoping that it would live up to my expectations. Well, I’m happy to say that the concept was every bit as intriguing and unique as it sounds. Imagine if the government got so serious about healthcare that they started dictating how much you could weigh and if you went over that weight you were taxed heavily. In this dystopian world that’s exactly what’s happened. It’s not that crazy of an idea, really. And honestly, it made me think. Morgan was very behind the idea because she had been told her whole life that being overweight was dangerous and costly. She saw only the good in the plan – and especially in The Body Institute’s solution. If someone else could do your exercise for you, you could lose weight even though you might not have the willpower to do it on your own. Sounds perfect, right? The whole concept is crazy but also really interesting – it could definitely work, and is it really any crazier than cosmetic surgery or some of the weight loss programs out there? The taxation pressures people to take part in the program, though. And the idea of the government regulating things having to do with health isn’t that outrageous. Morgan brought up the comparison to cigarettes and I also thought about artificial ingredients in foods (which I really wish our government would regulate more like they are in Europe – whole other conversation here). Honestly, I’m not all that opposed to the government making it harder for us to put harmful things into our bodies, so is regulating weight that huge of a jump. It really made me think about the slippery slope you could go down. It’s kind of like the old seat belt debate – do we force people to be safe and healthy or do we let them make their own (sometimes bad) choices? The book presents the questions, but it doesn’t give cut and dry answers, which I kind of loved. Like I said, this book made me think!
- The fine print. So, even if you could get behind the mission of The Body Institute, then there’s the details – these are way harder to swallow. Anyone who signs on to be a Reducer agrees to have their memory wiped at the end of the program, supposedly for privacy reasons. I actually had a little bit of a hard time believing that people would agree to this, but I suppose there are people who will do just about anything for money – and you find out later that the Institute is actually pulling some strings and manipulating people a bit. I won’t go into details about that, but there are definitely some shady things going on! Morgan slowly starts to learn that there is more to the Institute than she first thought – and not all of it is good!
- Family. I loved Morgan’s family and how involved they were in the story. Morgan’s job affected not just her but her family as well. I especially loved her grandpa!!
- The romance. My favorite thing about the romance in this book is that it wasn’t based on physical appearance alone – so often in YA books, we get the hot teenage kid with washboard abs (because we all knew so many of those, right?) and the girl who is drop dead gorgeous without really even knowing it. In this case, Morgan and Matt fall in love in their Loaner bodies – even though they both feel that they are doing a good thing for their Loaners by losing the weight, they don’t find these bodies unattractive (as Morgan fears she might). Morgan learns a lot about seeing beneath the skin and finding love that isn’t based on appearances alone – and she also learns to appreciate and accept other body types besides the one she’s been taught to believe is “perfect.”
- Mixed messages? As I was reading, I found myself wondering if some people might feel like there are some mixed messages in this book about body image, though I don’t think that’s at all what the author intended. I think that the overall message was supposed to be clear – that the government’s control over people’s weight was wrong and that people should be able to make their own choices about their health. But, at the same time, since we were reading the book from Morgan’s POV and she truly believed in the government’s messages about living a healthy life and staying thin, it was hard to hear some of her thoughts about people who were overweight – while she condemned the people who hurt her Loaner, she also had plenty of ungenerous thoughts of her own about her Loaner’s body and her willpower. Morgan did eventually grow to realize that it wasn’t as cut and dry as she imagined it to be, but it took a while for her to get there, and some people reading might find her initial thoughts and feelings hurtful, which might make it harder for them to get to the part where Morgan comes to some realizations. The book did advocate a healthy lifestyle, which I think is a really good thing – even in the end, Morgan never really felt like The Body Institute’s stated mission was bad – she just didn’t like the other shady things that were going along with it. I liked that this book made me think hard about these issues, but I did occasionally wonder which message would stick in the end. This could be a totally unfounded fear, but it definitely crossed my mind more than once. I think this is the type of book that merits lots of great discussion!
If you’re looking for a unique dystopian, I highly recommend this one! Riggs definitely left the ending open for a sequel, so I’m eager to see where she goes with the story next! I give it 4/5 stars.
***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author
I’m a YA writer represented by Kelly Sonnack of Andrea Brown Literary. My sci-fi novel THE BODY INSTITUTE explores the themes of society, identity, and body image. I live in the beautiful, green state of Oregon and have a Studio Arts degree; I’m an SCBWI member.
You’ll usually find me in my writing cave, surrounded by my dragon collection and the characters in my head. I also enjoy reading–mostly young adult novels–as well as drawing, painting, and quilting. I also attend writing conferences, walk with my husband, and enjoy music and dance of all kinds.
Carol lives with her husband, David, in Northern California, in a country home where she’s surrounded by horses, peacocks, dogs, wild turkeys and demanding cats.