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In THE INNOCENCE TREATMENT, Ari Goelman invites one to wonder if ignorance is bliss.

Lauren was happy…and unaware. She couldn’t understand if someone was telling the truth or if she was being lied to. Humor was a challenge, as well, considering she took words at face-value. With the help of a medical treatment, Lauren’s brain begins to morph. Before she knows it, she’s able to distinguish tells in people. But is her fate worth the price of her new worldly outlook?

After the first uprising–err, the Emergency–in 2031, the U.S. scrambled to collect itself from natural disasters and violence. It set forth the Emergency Act to protect its citizens. The country has an establishment known as the Department as eyes and ears as well. But is all this security helping the right people?

Post-surgery, Lauren has much to figure out with fresh eyes. Her relationship with her friends comes into question. Did they really love her, or did they spend time with her mostly out of pity? Evelyn, Lauren’s sister, was her protector, and now, she’s a bit jarred that Lauren’s…different. The new boy in school, Sasha, is cute, but he also has a secret mission. He works for the Department, spying on the students. He tells Lauren he’s unsatisfied with the way he’s treated by his higher-ups. Craving more control in their hectic lives, Sasha and Lauren eventually team up (As friends? As more than friends? As does-it-matter-enough-to-put-a-label-on-it acquaintances?) to hack into the Department.

In a novel of split perspective–half Lauren’s personal journal to Dr. Corbin (who performed her surgery), half Dr. Brechel’s (Lauren’s post-op therapist) case notes on Lauren’s transition, the reader goes down the rabbit hole along with Lauren’s sanity.

Lauren seemed to have two extremes: the girl who misses various social cues and the girl with violence brimming just below the surface. I acknowledge, at least to an extent, this was probably done by design, but it didn’t work for me. Her character seemed to be nothing beyond the effects of her treatment. Even most of her interactions with others were tied to her surgery. I wanted more personal effects from Lauren–to make her more three-dimensional.

I appreciate the back-and-forth between Lauren’s journal and Dr. Brechel’s case notes, but I think the story would have been told better from a third-person point of view. I generally do not prefer third-person perspectives, but Lauren’s reliability as a narrator in her journal entries limits the flight of a storyline that could soar. The reader could have received more detail and had a better outlook on Lauren’s transformation and its ramifications.

Despite being underwhelmed by Lauren’s story and the average writing style of the novel, the underlying question that arises is one for the ages: is it better to be aware, no matter how ugly the truth, or is the continuous “bliss” of simple naivety the best course? To quote Lauren, “Why would I rather be unhappy than stupid? Why not just take the happy life?” Well, Reader, I suppose that is for you to decide.  


The Innocence Treatment hits shelves on October 17th, 2017. Pre-order now from Amazon.

You may believe the government protects you, but only one girl knows how they use you.

Lauren has a disorder that makes her believe everything her friends tell her–and she believes everyone is her friend. Her innocence puts her at constant risk, so when she gets the opportunity to have an operation to correct her condition, she seizes it. But after the surgery, Lauren is changed. Is she a paranoid lunatic with violent tendencies? Or a clear-eyed observer of the world who does what needs to be done?

Told in journal entries and therapy session transcripts, The Innocence Treatment is a collection of Lauren’s papers, annotated by her sister long after the events of the novel. A compelling YA debut thriller that is part speculative fiction and part shocking tell-all of genetic engineering and government secrets, Lauren’s story is ultimately an electrifying, propulsive, and spine-tingling read.

By Lara

20-something. TV addict. Reader. Writer.

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